Twitter gets a lot of bad press. For me, it's a superb vehicle for great sports debate, and a lot of my ideas for articles are generated thanks to conversations on the platform.
One topic keeps coming up time and time again, and that's the selection, or lack of selection of England and Nottinghamshire batsmen Alex Hales.
Hales was dropped just before the 2019 World Cup due to a 2nd failed test for recreational drugs. This came on the back of the famous Bristol incident which landed both Ben Stokes and Alex Hales in hot water.
You could argue that at 30 years of age (now 31), Alex should know better. He's no longer a young man making his way in the world, but a seasoned pro with plenty of life experience. He was suspended for just 21 days following his positive test, a punishment that some pros like Nasser Hussein took exception to.
One way to look at this is to say that Alex Hales has served his punishment. He was suspended and fined for Bristol and suspended for his positive drugs test. The biggest punishment of all? After being part of the team that saw England's one day side rise to prominence, he was forced to watch from the sidelines as England lifted the trophy. That must have been tough.
Within Ben Stokes book "On Fire", the England star lifted the lid on why Alex Hales had to be omitted from the squad:
“We had been a tight-knit team throughout Eoin Morgan’s captaincy period and so reading the finer details in a newspaper was not a great way for us all to find out,”
“Eoin Morgan made it his business to seek out the senior players within the squad to canvas their views as to what should be done about Alex’s situation. When asked directly what I would do, I came straight out with it: ‘No. I can’t have him in the squad.’”
He went on to elaborate citing his own experiences following Bristol. Hinting that had Hales been a bigger part of the team, his incident may have been overlooked:
“I was speaking as someone with first-hand knowledge of what it’s like when an off-field issue is hanging over a team,” wrote Stokes. “I went into all the details about my experience of what happened on the 2017–18 tour of Australia and posed the question as to whether Hales was the level of player that we could make an exception for.
“Was he so indispensable that he was worth keeping in the squad no matter the sideshow that might ensue? No. This was the resounding response from myself and other senior players.
At the end of the day, it was all about the greatest goal there is
“We were within sight of the prize we’d worked so hard for and we wanted our heads to be on winning the World Cup, not thinking about other issues. What was bigger? What was more important? In the end, it came down to us protecting the culture and environment we had built.”
So we're on the other side of the World Cup. Now that a new cycle is starting, should England reconsider selecting Hales with two T20 World Cups on the horizon? Has he served his punishment and should he be given another chance?
First you need to look at this international T20 stats:
116* High score
134 strike rate
Alex Hales has just come off a superb 2020 Big Bash season in Australia where he ended the tournament as the 2nd highest run scorer, an average of 38.40 and a strike rate of 146.94. Not to mention some good experience on Australian tracks, don't forget the 2020 T20 World Cup will be held in Australia.
However, do England really need him? When the world cup comes around you have to imagine that the likes of Roy, Bairstow, Malan (averaging over 57 in T20i), Banton will all be vying for places. Not to mention Morgan, Stokes and Buttler. If he's not going to start, do you risk having him around the squad if the players don't want him there? These are all important questions to ask before making a decision on his future.
Recently England Captain Eoin Morgan confirmed that Hales could return to the set-up if he rebuilds trust:
"Alex is in fantastic form for Sydney Thunder at the moment but his form has never been a question about him coming back into the squad.
"What happened prior to the World Cup last summer was a complete breakdown in trust between Alex and the team.
"The way back in for Alex is to try and rebuild that trust and that takes a considerable amount of time. We are in that time at the moment."
So in essence Hales is currently floating in purgatory. Not here nor there. It's not his form that matters but his ability to stay out of trouble, and rebuild the "trust".
If you're Hales the only thing you can do is keep your nose clean and keep performing. If Hales comes out in the domestic season and dominates with the bat, will he become so important that his history can be overlooked.