Time is a healer, says captain, as prospect of summer training-camp invite remains
Eoin Morgan has downplayed the possibility of Alex Hales winning an England recall ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Hales recently enjoyed an excellent BBL campaign and continues to hold the record for the highest T20I score by an England player – 116 not out against Sri Lanka in the 2014 World T20. He also has a higher T20I average than anyone in the current England squad (31.01; only Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen, among England players, average more) and continues to excel in T20 leagues around the world.
But he hasn’t played for England since March 2019 after failing two tests for recreational drugs. As a result, Morgan, England’s limited-overs captain, said he had shown a “complete disregard” for team values and would need to rebuild that trust before he could be recalled.
While Ed Smith, the national selector, has recently suggested the process of reintegrating Hales into the England squad could begin in the coming months with invitations to training sessions, Morgan has stressed that breaking back into a team that cannot, at present, accommodate Root, could prove challenging.
“Our position on Alex still remains the same,” Morgan said. “He’s out of the squad. The squad is very strong at the moment.
“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.”
Morgan did accept that Hales could be invited to training sessions during the English summer, but admitted the pair had yet to speak. He also stressed his continuing faith in Jason Roy at the top of the order despite having not reached 25 in his most recent 10 international innings dating back to February 2020 and Jonny Bairstow, who endured a miserable Test series against India.
“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,” Morgan explained. “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.
“As for Jason… he doesn’t need to remind any of us how good he is. We watch him train day in, day out and know the quality of player he is. We also know the impact of how he plays and the influence it has on the dressing room and the other batters.
“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 also appeared to confirm that Ben Stokes would continue to bat in the middle order. While Rajasthan Royals have utilised him in the top-order in recent times – even experimenting with moving Jos Buttler into the middle-order – England have no such plans.
“I’m happy with the structure I have,” Morgan said. “Ben has done really well for us there [in the middle order] and hopefully that will continue.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo