England skipper Eoin Morgan downplayed the possibility of handing a comeback to Alex Hales, and insisted that the opener, as things stand, is not in England’s plans in any format. Hales, who was a white-ball regular for England until 2019, had a fallout with Morgan following a failed drug test.
The ECB booted Alex Hales out of the original World Cup squad in 2019 after the opener failed two drug tests a week before the global extravaganza, and, ever since, the 32-year-old has spent time playing franchise cricket across the world, unable to get a look back into the English setup. As a consequence, though, Hales has transformed into one of the best T20 batsmen in the world, and his form in the recently-concluded Big Bash League, where he amassed 543 runs at a SR of 161, served a testament to the same.
But despite the rumour mills doing their thing, that England might be tempted to integrate the 32-year-old back into the setup, owing to his quality, with the World T20 9 months away, England skipper Eoin Morgan has, once again, closed the door on a potential Hales comeback. Addressing a press conference ahead of the T20Is vs India, Morgan insisted that Hales is not in the reckoning and claimed that, even from a pure cricketing perspective, it would be impossible for the right-hander to break into the current side.
"Our position on Alex still remains the same. He's out of the squad. The squad is very strong at the moment,” ESPNCricinfo quoted Morgan as saying.
"You look at the strength of our squad at the moment and the areas that we're trying to improve… one area we don't struggle for players, it's probably in the top three.
"He's not in the squad and the squad is very difficult to get back into. The player that he is has never been in doubt. Could he return ahead of the World Cup? Only time will tell. But time is a great healer."
Hales had earlier revealed that he had texted Morgan before lockdown but received no response from the England skipper. Both the ECB and Morgan have been criticised for giving ‘mixed signals’, leaving not just Hales, but also the supporters in limbo with regards to the situation surrounding the opener. Morgan claimed that, with the UK set to ease lockdown restrictions, there could now be a window of opportunity to have Hales train with the camp and assess him first-hand.
“One area, every summer, that we try and grow and learn more about players outside the squad is trying to bring them in, in the build-up to series say, two days out, a practice day. We'll have guys come in and bowl, bat in the nets and just be around the group.
"Last summer, we weren't able to do that. This summer it's looking like restrictions and our bubbles will be a little bit more relaxed, depending on vaccinations and spikes and all that sort of thing. But it could present an opportunity to have Alex in and around. We haven't spoken yet,” Morgan said.
Jonny Bairstow has been England’s best and most consistent white-ball player across the last few years, but there are fears that the Yorkshireman might be low on confidence owing to having registered three ducks across the last two Test matches versus India. Morgan, however, rubbished those suggestions and insisted that he has no concerns surrounding Bairstow, whom he described as a world-class white-ball player.
"I'm not concerned whatsoever about Jonny. I think, the way the formats are now, there's a huge distinction between Test cricket and white-ball cricket,” Morgan said of Bairstow.