Alex Hales has become the second England player in less than a week to sign a one-day contract with his county as English domestic cricket attempts to readjust to the game’s rapidly changing landscape.
Hales has followed Adil Rashid’s example by signing a white ball only contract with his county, Nottinghamshire, and plans to devote himself to being a one day specialist until at least 2019.
The 29 year-old has effectively given up on reclaiming his Test place, despite England’s lack of a settled opening partnership, and will instead attempt to play Twenty20 cricket around the world.
He also faces a challenge to keep his place in England’s one-day squad having lost his spot when he was suspended for his part in a late night incident last September and struggled for runs on his return in Australia. With a year to go to the 2019 World Cup, Hales will know it could be a difficult route back into the side if he loses his place over the next few months.
With so many Twenty20 leagues around the world Hales will feel he is better off honing his white ball skills than trying to juggle three formats and play championship cricket for Notts in the hope of a Test recall.
He may also have been shocked into the decision by failing to attract a bid in the IPL auction. This decision proves his dedication to the shorter format and will reassure franchise owners that he will not be forced to return home early from the IPL for county duty.
These are changing times for the counties with more power in the hands of the big stars. Five years ago Notts refused Hales permission to play in the IPL because it would mean missing the first two months of the domestic season.
But now players are able to structure their contracts differently once established as white ball players and are actively urged to go to the IPL, or other T20 leagues, by the England management.
Hales helped Notts win the one-day double of the Royal London Cup and NatWest Blast last season. He hit a record 187 not out in the Lord’s 50-over final against Surrey but has found it difficult to land Twenty20 contracts elsewhere. He was signed up for the South Africa T20 competition last winter but it was scrapped due to a lack of funding and Big Bash teams were reluctant to sign him while he was under suspension by the ECB.
For one-dimensional players such as Hales, who is poor fielder and does not bowl, they really have to excel at their skill to command the massive fees in Twenty20 competitions. This is why he will feel concentrating on white ball cricket gives him the best chance of improving.
“The decision to focus on my white ball game wasn't taken lightly or on the spur of the moment, it's one I've thought long and hard about,” said Hales. “It's also one I've discussed at length with the Notts management. I'd like to thank them for their continued support.”