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Alex Hales' strained relationship with Ben Stokes no barrier to T20 World Cup bid - Matthew Mott

Head coach tells Hales he's starting "with a blank canvas" upon England recall

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Alex Hales prepares to bat during an England nets session in Karachi  •  Getty Images

Alex Hales prepares to bat during an England nets session in Karachi  •  Getty Images

Alex Hales' strained relationship with Ben Stokes will not throw England off course in their bid to win the T20 World Cup in Australia, according to Matthew Mott.
Hales and Stokes were involved in the infamous brawl outside a Bristol nightclub in 2017 that saw Stokes charged with affray - he denied the charge and was found not guilty - and both players handed backdated bans and fines by the Cricket Disciplinary Commission.
In his recently-released documentary, Phoenix from the Ashes, Stokes refers to "my friend at the time, Alex" when addressing the incident and did not answer questions about Hales during interviews about the film.
Stokes, who has been rested for England's seven-match T20 international tour of Pakistan after a busy summer captaining the Test side, was tight-lipped when asked about his relationship with Hales and whether they had spoken recently earlier this month, saying only: "We've both got the same goal: to win World Cups."
Mott, England's white-ball head coach, had not worked with Hales before his recall as an injury replacement for Jonny Bairstow for trips to Pakistan and Australia, and said that he had no concerns about the potential for friction within the squad.
"They might not be best mates and that's OK," Mott said. "I'm sure you work with colleagues all the time who aren't your best mate but you can work with them if you've got a common goal.
"Ben's come out and stated that as well. He wants to win World Cups. I'm sure Alex does as well and we all do, so we try and pick the best players and if they end up becoming good mates again that's great; if not, as long as they're going towards that goal of winning the World Cup together then that's how teams function."
Hales himself did not specifically address his relationship with Stokes when speaking in Karachi on Friday but was keen to insist that he was "only looking to the future" rather than dwelling on the chain of events that led to his three-year exile from international cricket.
Mott also revealed that he considered "the key phone call" involved in Hales' recall to be one he made to Trevor Bayliss. Jos Buttler made several calls to senior players after Bairstow's injury came to light but Mott decided he should also speak to the man who was England's coach at the time of Hales' last-minute omission from the 2019 50-over World Cup squad after news emerged of a second failed recreational drugs test.
"I rang Trevor Bayliss around the time we were considering it and asked if he had any views," Mott said. "Obviously he was coach at the time and has worked with him at Sydney Thunder. He said he's had absolutely no problem with him at all, he's made mistakes but he's trying to get better.
"For me, that's it. Nobody's perfect - I'm certainly not - but if he's trying to get better and he's the best player, then we can work around it.
"Like Jos said, we asked the senior players whether they had an issue. It was well before my time, so one of the things I said was 'mate, you start with a blank canvas'. He's been contrite and has shown he's trying to learn from his experiences."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98