England’s decision to axe Alex Hales was backed by team-mates

England hit back at Alex Hales’ claims that he was betrayed after decision to axe him was backed by Eoin Morgan and Co because they were fed up with his behaviour and wanted to move on

  • England hit back at Alex Hales’ claims that the decision to axe him was betrayal
  • Dressing-room sources presented a very different picture from the one Hales did
  • The decision had the full backing of his team-mates fed up with his behaviour
  • It was also claimed Hales failed to apologise to them during their training camp

England have hit back at claims by Alex Hales that his axing from the World Cup squad because of a drugs violation was a betrayal.

As the saga entered its fifth day, and with the tournament only a month away, dressing-room sources presented a very different picture from the one depicted by his management company, arguing that the decision to jettison him had the full backing of team-mates fed up with his behaviour and desperate to move on from the controversy.

It was also claimed Hales had failed to apologise to them during a training camp in Cardiff over the weekend, and had yet to take full responsibility for his actions – an attitude that helped persuade managing director Ashley Giles, head coach Trevor Bayliss and captain Eoin Morgan to cast him adrift.

England have hit back at claims by Alex Hales that his World Cup squad axing was a betrayal

England have hit back at claims by Alex Hales that his World Cup squad axing was a betrayal

In a devastating comment on Hales’s behaviour, it emerged that Bayliss felt he could no longer trust him, after generating a rapsheet that includes lying to police on the night of Ben Stokes’s arrest in Bristol in September 2017, unwelcome headlines about his private life earlier this year, and now drugs.

The risk of another adverse story breaking on the eve of the tournament, which begins with England against South Africa at The Oval on May 30, is not one Bayliss was willing to take – despite Hales’s claim in a statement on Monday that he had been assured his World Cup place would not be threatened by his suspension.

Yet there is embarrassment among ECB bosses that they have in effect been hampered by their own protocol relating to players’ use of recreational substances, which insists on confidentiality even after a second failed test.

For legal reasons, only the most senior officials – including chief executive Tom Harrison – were made aware of Hales’s situation, which left Bayliss in the absurd situation of learning about it through the media.

It is equally uncomfortable for the board that Hales would almost certainly still be part of the World Cup set-up had a newspaper not broken the news of his two failed drugs tests.

Hales had launched a stinging attack on England bosses after being axed from the World Cup

Hales had launched a stinging attack on England bosses after being axed from the World Cup

That has led to claims that the ECB used weasel words in arguing Hales was dropped because his behaviour damaged dressing-room spirit, rather than because of the positive tests. It has also led to accusations that the board simply hoped the story would remain unreported.

Officials are adamant they were not involved in a cover-up. As one source put it: ‘Our hands were tied.’ Even so, stung by the criticism, they will now review their own protocol. It seems inevitable they will impose stricter punishments after a second violation than the 21-day ban handed out to Hales – a ban unhelpfully described by his county Nottinghamshire as being for ‘personal reasons’.

That could make cricket more closely aligned with rugby union, where a second drugs violation triggers public disclosure and a six-month ban.

Yet it didn’t help the ECB’s credibility that, until Tuesday, their official website suggested a player’s name could in fact be revealed after a second failed test. That wording has now been updated.

The door has not closed on Hales’s England career, though the feeling at the ECB – who are furious that his latest transgression has overshadowed the team’s build-up to one of the biggest summers in English cricket history – is that his attitude needs to change before he can be considered again. He will be 34 when the next World Cup begins, in February 2023.

Hales insists he was assured a second failed drugs test would not stop him playing for England

Hales insists he was assured a second failed drugs test would not stop him playing for England 

Hales is said to have cut a withdrawn figure during the three-day camp in Cardiff at the Vale of Glamorgan hotel, where team-mates were surprised he did not take the opportunity to formally say sorry. At the same time, his approach made it easier for them to move on without him. The general attitude, according to a source, was: ‘We don’t need a cloud everywhere we go.’

Meanwhile, Hales’s former opening partner Jason Roy continues to struggle with the back spasm that has disrupted his season with Surrey and the national side.

England are hopeful he will be fit in time for the five-match one-day series against Pakistan, starting at The Oval on May 8, but are concerned that the injury has lingered. Roy tends to suffer back spasms once or twice a year, but they usually disappear after a couple of days.

The latest occurrence has left him without cricket since April 23, and ruled him out of Friday’s one-day international against Ireland in Dublin, and Sunday’s T20 game against Pakistan in Cardiff.

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