London [UK], September 17 (ANI): Alex Hales admitted that the long sabbatical from international cricket has helped him change and is now a more mature individual than he was in 2019 when he was shown the door following his two failed recreational drug tests.
The Nottinghamshire batter also confessed that he thought his international career was over as he would never make it to the national team.
ESPNcricinfo quoted Hales as "I think I have changed. I've definitely matured. I'm comfortably into my 30s now and turning into a veteran. I feel as though I've grown as a person. Where I am at the moment - on and off the field - is probably the best of my career so far. I did think that the chance would not come again, for sure. At times I felt like I wouldn't get this chance again. I felt like I'd been playing the best cricket of my career over those three years as well, so to get this chance again at this time is something I'm really proud of and something I'm really looking forward to. I feel like I can help push this team forward."
Hales had intended to spend October in Cape Town with his girlfriend, but he has instead returned to Karachi twice already this year after playing for Islamabad United in the PSL. After the Lahore part of this tour, he will fly immediately to Australia, where he will have the opportunity to win a World Cup and make up for the mistakes of 2019.
Hales had been sitting in his car, staring into the rearview mirror, getting ready to make a call, just two weeks before. Rob Key, England's managing director and de facto selector, was on the other end of the line. Hales planned to ask Key why he had been left out of the T20I squads for the winter tours, which were set to be publicly announced the following morning, and whether the choice had really been made solely on the basis of performance.
"I was quite firm and forceful when I rang him. I wanted to know if there was a genuine chance of me playing or whether they were just saying it to the media, so I was quite forceful. I said 'if we're talking purely cricket, I feel like I should be in the squad. I had nothing to lose, did I," Hales said. Another similar call followed to Jos Buttler later that day.
The argument that Hales presented was straightforward, "I felt like I deserved my spot in that squad if it was picked purely on cricketing merit. I had the right to ask why I wasn't picked; to show that drive, to show I wanted to be part of it. If they give me a chance, I feel I'm more than capable of filling that role at the top of the order, especially in Australia. If I didn't, I wouldn't have made that call."
Hales declined the chance to throw any barbs at Eoin Morgan, who regularly cited trust issues and a "complete disregard" for team values as the rationale behind his omission. Had they spoken? "Not a huge amount. Not really, no," he said. Would his recall have happened but for Morgan's international retirement? "You're asking the wrong guy, I think only Eoin would know that."
And while Hales suggested that he held himself responsible for his omission - "when you do something like that, there's no one else you can blame. Three years is a very, very long time, especially in an athlete's career," he hinted that he felt as though he had been denied the opportunity to play during his prime.
He is the leading run scorer in the Big Bash League since 2019 scoring 1502 runs, behind Josh Phillippe, Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell.
Throughout his years in the international wilderness, Hales has made an effort to keep a low profile and steer out of conflict, and for long stretches of time, he has been successful. However, it has been difficult to get rid of the feeling that turmoil has followed him everywhere.
In November, Azeem Rafiq alleged that he had named his black dog 'Kevin' as a racial slur. "It's been investigated [by the ECB]," Hales said on Friday, having denied the allegation at the time.
"I went through the process and everyone is happy with where it's at." He also apologised after a newspaper published photos of him wearing blackface at a student party: "It was shameful... I was a dumb 19-year-old who had no idea of the ramifications of what he was doing," he said.
Buttler suggested on arrival in Karachi that Hales had become "a different person" after his time in the international wilderness, a view that Hales himself shared.
On Friday night, England conducted their first training session in Pakistan. They were transported in armed convoys from their hotel to Karachi's National Stadium by armoured buses. Over the following two and a half weeks, they will grow accustomed to seeing these convoys. Hales is already comfortable playing here because, during the course of his several PSL stints, he has participated in 24 games in Pakistan, more than any other English player.
"I'm treating this as a blank canvas and only looking to the future now. I'm really looking forward to the next two weeks in Pakistan and what the World Cup can bring," said Hales on his next assignment. (ANI)