Alex Hales, what are you thinking?

Picture Credit: Ben Sutherland

Hales joined his fellow Englishman, Adil Rashid this week, in signing a white-ball only contract with their respective Counties, Yorkshire and Nottingham. As a result, this will rule both out from red-ball action for the length of their current contracts. 

Although some sympathize with Rashid, having arguably been treated poorly by the ECB selectors, thrown in and dragged out of the test team, given a match here and a match there, most feel this leaves a bitter taste in relation to Hales. 

Rashid has had an intermittent test career, having been first called up to the test squad 10 years ago, however, he has only played in 10 test matches over the 10 years. Further, when he has played, it has always been overseas, in unknown conditions and with the weight of England’s expectations upon his shoulders. At best, his test career has been mediocre, having failed to produce the spells he has produced in 4-day domestic cricket for Yorkshire and with that, England have not kept their faith in him. Instead, England has generally stuck with Moeen Ali, who they feel offers more with the bat and in recent times have also turned to Liam Dawson and Mason Crane. 

It is with this, alongside the other England spinners coming through the ranks, most notably Jack Leach, w it is understandable that Rashid has decided to focus on his white-ball cricket. Further, Rashid has been the most successful white-ball bowler since the 2015 World Cup and is a prized target in overseas leagues. 

Test opportunities

In comparison, Alex Hales has had a generous opportunity at Test level, having played in 11 games, all in a continuous run both overseas against South Africa and also domestically against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Hales’ test career failed to fulfill the potential he has demonstrated in white-ball cricket, with plenty of soft dismissals and peaks and troughs of runs and no runs. It may be with this and knowing that his test future is diminishing with the recent success in the Ashes of Dawid Malan, the selection of Liam Livingstone for New Zealand, the recent success of Joe Clarke for the England Lions and probable future re-call of Keaton Jennings and Haseeb Hameed, that Hales has decided to restrict his game. 

In that respect, it is arguably understandable. However, there are potential issues with Hales’ decision to limit his career to only white ball cricket.

Firstly, he is currently under pressure in the England white-ball team, he has lost his opening spot to Jason Roy in the ODI team, having been suspended by England due to his conduct on a night out, which Ben Stokes has subsequently been charged with affray. With Dawid Malan knocking down the door having scored 4x 50+ scores in 5 IT20’s, Roy and Bairstow having scored runs, Root immovable from the team and Morgan the captain, Hales is under pressure. Similarly, Hales’ recent t20 performances have been satisfactory at best averaging 18 in the recent tri-series and Root, Bairstow, Ali and Stokes were all missing from that squad, so it is thought would likely come in. If Hales was to lose his England spot, this would significantly hinder his opportunity to develop, compete and showcase his talents at the highest level. 

Overlooked by franchise T20 leagues

Secondly, Hales has recently been overlooked in the recent BBL and IPL team selections. Arguably, the best two t20 tournaments in the world and if Hales is to limit himself to white-ball cricket only, he must ensure that he is participating in these tournaments to develop as much as possible. In relation to the other t20 domestic tournaments, he was selected for the inaugural South Africa t20 tournament, which was postponed, he has withdrawn himself from the Pakistan Super League and therefore this would only leave the Caribbean Premier League, Bangladesh Premier League and English T20 Blast. 

However, it is thought he would steer clear of the BPL having decided not to tour Bangladesh in 2016 for safety concerns. Would playing in the CPL really affected his domestic red ball career that significantly? Probably not. As a result, it is difficult to fully understand the logic behind such a significant step. Further, in reality, if he played a full summer of English white-ball cricket it is likely that he would have played little red-ball cricket anyway. He could have followed a similar pattern to Eoin Morgan, where he not officially ruled himself out of red-ball cricket, however, he has not played in a 4-day game for 3 years. Although, today Morgan has confirmed he is ready to play for Middlesex in the County Championship again.

If Hales is ultimately dropped by England, fails to secure a place in overseas leagues as he has done this year, what if anything, will Hales achieve and how will he develop his white-ball game? Further, would he dare grovel back to Nottingham to try and reinstate his red-ball career? What is clear is that there will be significant grumbles by the Nottinghamshire members. It is often said that the best way to regain form is to spend some time in the middle and for a player that has prolific peaks and troughs in his run scoring, this will only limit his learning, potential and development in my opinion.

In reality, Hales has made his bed and whatever the outcome, he is very likely going to have to lie in it. 

Do you think this was the right decision by Hales and Rashid? Let us know in the comments below.

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