Alex Hales returned to the England squad after a three-year hiatus following disciplinary issues that put him off the radar in the Eoin Morgan era. The retirement of the former England skipper opened the gates to selection once again and the Rob Key-Jos Buttler-led management decided to bring the explosive opener back to the squad for the Pakistan series and the subsequent T20 World Cup in Australia next month.
It could have been further delayed if Jason Roy was in form or Jonny Bairstow wasn’t ruled out of the World Cup with a freak injury. Both incidents helped Hales make a much-awaited comeback to the fold of which he once was a central figure in building.
Speaking about his selection for the first time in detail, Hales revealed that he had called up Rob Key and Jos Buttler after the Managing Director of England Men’s Cricket said in an interview that Hales is in their plans. He wanted to have clarity about his future and wanted to know if his non-selection in the Winter tours were down to cricketing logic.
"I was quite firm and forceful when I rang him," Hales said. "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?" Another similar call followed to Jos Buttler later that day.
"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."
During his exile from the national set-up, Hales continued to pile runs at every possible opportunity and since 2019, Hales has amassed 4486 T20 runs at an average of 33.48 and at a scarcely believable strike rate of 154.7. 29 half-centuries and three centuries in the span of three and a half years across some of the biggest leagues in world cricket made him one of the most sought-after players in the world but Hales knows what he had missed out on.
"It was extremely painful. It's your worst nightmare: to be involved in a World Cup squad, missing out on the eve of it ... it was brilliant to see the team lifting it, but at the same time, it eats at you inside that you should have been part of it and you weren't. I guess that drives you on, to improve as a person and a cricketer and get that spot back that you feel you deserve.
"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."
During his first press conference in Karachi, Buttler shared that the absence and the punishment have made Hales a matured player - something that the Nottinghamshire fully concurs.
"I think I have changed. I've definitely matured. I'm comfortably into my 30s now [he is 33] 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."