The Nottinghamshire opening batsman has not represented his country since being dropped after it emerged he was serving a 21-day ban for a second violation of the ECB’s own recreational drugs policy. Despite being a key part of the ODI squad in the four years before last summer’s tournament, he was unceremoniously dropped by captain Eoin Morgan who lamented “a complete breakdown of trust”.
Ever since, Hales, who has 70 ODI, 60 T20i and 11 Test caps, has been something of an elephant in the room. And as England were building towards the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year – coronavirus pending – he was far from their thinking, failing to make the squads for T20 series away to New Zealand and South Africa over the winter.
However, in the week that a group of 15 England and Lions bowlers players returned to outdoor training across seven venues, there is a growing sense series against West Indies, Pakistan and Australia could still go ahead this summer. But will all three needing to take place under controlled environments, there can be no crossover of players. Thus separate red and white ball squads will be needed for Tests against West Indies and Pakistan, and limited-overs fixtures against Pakistan and Australia.
With over 40 players due to be selected across both squads, there can be no performance-based argument against Hales’ selection. Among his international statistics of a 37 average at a strike rate of 95 in ODIs and 31 at 136 in T20is, he has put in some notable franchise performances over the last six months. He was the second-highest runscorer in the Big Bash League and scored 239 runs in just five innings in the Pakistan Super League.
But it was never about the numbers and only about the man. And the prospect of a recall has been broached by both parties. Whatever conclusions Morgan and the selectors come to, Woakes holds no grudges.
“I’m a believer that people serve their time so to speak,” said Woakes. “He’s gone through a tough time being left out of the World Cup, and going on to see that team lift the trophy must have been difficult for him.
“Alex is as a world-class player. I have played a lot of cricket with him from a young age actually. In a way I felt sorry for him but I understand the decision from the management, captain and rest of the team. I don’t 100 per cent know what will happen but I’d be happy to see Alex back in England colours.”
Such is the trust in him as captain that Morgan is likely to have the final say. Speaking at the beginning of the month, he stated the door was still open for Hales but that the onus was on the 31-year old to earn back the trust of his teammates. Woakes thinks that should not be an issue.
“I would imagine the majority would have the kind of views I have given. People deserve a second chance, as long gone away and worked on a few things. Don’t know why anyone would see that any differently, We have a culture and an environment in the England squad we all try and pull in the right direction. If Alex is willing to do that then I imagine everyone would be happy to see him back playing for England.”
Should Hales get the nod, he would join the group of batsmen and wicketkeepers who will begin individual training from 1 June. These are due to take place across 11 venues, including Trent Bridge which is local to Hales and is currently being used by his Nottinghamshire teammate, Stuart Broad.