London: Having received his maiden call-up in the England ODI squad, hard-hitting batsman Alex Hales feels that the Indian Premier League (IPL) snub he got during the last edition, helped him turn into a better player.
In 2013, Nottinghamshire refused to release him for the IPL and during the last edition, the dashing batsman was not picked up by any of the franchises.
“Had I got picked up in the IPL who knows whether we would have been having this conversation now,” Hales told a British daily.
“I am almost glad that the door shut on me in the IPL and it has given me the chance to work hard on my four-day game. Had I gone to India it would have all been T20 and whacking the ball rather than technique and building and compiling innings,” Hales summed up about how he felt about the cash-rich league.
Hales said: “Playing Test cricket for England is a priority for me.
“After the Big Bash, I had a lot of time away to think about four-day cricket and discover that hunger for runs again and building an innings and working hard on my technique. I’m really happy that I have reaped the rewards this year.”
Part of that thinking would have been driven by the disappointment of not winning a contract in the IPL, almost unheard of for a player in the top three of the international T20 batting rankings.
Hales will be Alastair Cook’s next opening partner as England search for a potent combination in 50-over cricket that will serve them well next year in the World Cup, held in Australia and New Zealand.
To look at, they appear tall, dark, handsome mirror images of one another – Cook left-handed, Hales right. But that is where the similarities end and the complementary contrasts begin, Hales bringing power and risk to Cook’s solidity and calm.
Hales, 25, is very much a product of the Twenty20 era. He can muscle the ball over the ropes from all lengths and paces, only getting in a tangle – occasionally – against the short stuff. If there is a weakness to a game predicated on hitting boundaries, it is the lack of dabs and clips that can get a batsman off strike.
He possesses a keen eye – and not just for the ball. This season he spotted the opportunity of making his way through the formats for England, and has stated his case with a torrent of runs for Nottinghamshire. There are vacancies, too, the moribund nature of England’s 50-over starts with the bat being one and Sam Robson’s failure to consolidate the opening role in the Test team the other.
“I knew I faced a big two or three weeks in terms of my whole career,” Hales said, after he was selected in England’s 50-over squad on Monday. “I have worked hard with the coaches and the rewards have come.”
“I have played 30-odd games of international T20 and that comes with a lot of pressure, so I don’t think the big stage will be anything too new,” Hales said. “It’s just whether my technique and temperament are ready for the step up, but I feel I have shown in the last few weeks that they are.”
One of the reasons for his success in four-day cricket has been his strokeplayer’s instinct for attacking balls wide of off stump that others prefer to leave alone, though that can be risky on pitches with pace and bounce, as in Australia.
In the top division of the County Championship, he averages 56.53 from 16 innings with three hundreds, and he has also scored two one-day hundreds in the Royal London Cup.
“Test cricket is definitely still my ambition. I’m still only 25 so I have just about got time on my side. From what I have learnt last year and the steps I have made, if I continue with those improvements then who knows? Twelve months ago I could not have imagined this at all but six months ago, yes.
“After the Big Bash I had a lot of time away to think about four-day cricket and discover that hunger for runs again and building an innings and working hard on my technique. I’m really happy that I have reaped the rewards this year.”