Are we really serious when we say in a cricketing context- you are as good as your last inning? Do we mean it when we utter what happens in the past is for history to note and that tomorrow is another new day; another chance to begin again? Who are we fooling?
For if the above is true, then why is Alex Hales being punished for something he did three years back in time?
In an era, where a tweet can make or break destinies, where neither a Harvard academic, nor a leading tech entrepreneur and definitely, not a cricket official can remember what tweet he or she posted the previous Monday morning at 10 a.m., why is Alex Hales being discredited for something that happened 1095 plus days ago?
What’s certain is this - neither Eoin Morgan, the limited-overs captain nor Joe Root have seemed to have had an official word with the revered English Cricket Board regarding making plans to re-absorb a cricketer who is second to none, especially in the big-hitting T20 stage.
What’s uncertain is the reason why none of the towering forces - and there are many whose voices carry significant weight - done anything to pave forward a way for Hales to return. What’s known about Alex Hales is that- he didn’t commit a murder, threaten Her Majesty, dial a wrong number and hurl vile abuses to a state secretary nor did he misbehave with English blonds in a pub.
At the same time, what’s also certain is that Alex Hales was reportedly charged and later, sidelined for having consumed an item related to recreational drug use. Whether it was weed, pot or something else isn’t important.
Though, what is, is the fact that Hales, now 32 has lost three precious years of his cricketing life to a regrettable incident, which could be put down to, rather should be put down to a pardonable crime if one’s wishing to call it a crime. He didn’t, it is evidently clear, in the event of consuming something banned and dubious, compel any member of the then-playing side to consume whatever it is he did, perhaps in light recreational mood.
The team, on the other hand, has moved on a lot from this period of time. The last three years have seen the likes of Sam Curran and Adil Rashid becoming regular features in white-ball fixtures, while the likes of Jason Roy have been tried and tested in Tests with someone like a Chris Woakes having assumed tremendous responsibility in either formats alongside the emergence and rise of a Mark Wood. Whether Alex Hales committed a sin rendered utterly unpardonable, something the Vatican could likely consider as a sacrilege is unknown; what’s known is that, with Hales failing to make it to the English squad, currently facing Pakistan, singled the worst suspicion of them all.
That maybe the end is over. If indeed true, then this is sad much like a healthy youth losing out on a limb whilst having only just begun one’s working career. Hales was, is no ordinary talent. He has 4,600 international runs, including 2,400 in ODI cricket alone to his name. Moreover, he has been quite the agile fielder any playing eleven would wish it had in the fray; a lanky 6’5 plus bloke who could easily take diving catches and clear the ropes. And to clear the ropes he certainly did, on more than one occasion especially in a contest that happens to be among English cricket’s dearest cricketing achievements.
What many regard as the greatest moment of England’s ODI history is the win of the 2019 World Cup. And surely - why not? But a feat that’s perhaps just as exemplary as the very team holding the record for scoring most runs ever as a team total. Australians, the great sufferers and the Englishmen, their proud hammerers took the concept of putting the bowlers to the sword quite seriously, when on 19 June, 2018- an Eoin Morgan-leg side whipped the Aussies to post 481 runs on the board.
Of these, Alex Hales made 147 on his own taking no more than just ninety-two deliveries as he pounded a century laced by sixteen fours and five huge sixes to register a score as blasphemous as witnessing the Royal Air Force of Great Britain devastating the Germans during the great war.
Hales’ highest-score, however, remains 171, indicating clearly his appetite for destruction and to muster a strong fight. A Gayle-like powerful batsman who could read the line of the ball and strike it cleanly, the Hillingdon-born batsman was quite a brute force with the bat. This is what he’d have been doing had his ‘crime against humanity’ not been overlooked or his punishment not reduced.
If smoking marijuana, legal in several places on the planet, is a heinous crime, then what about those match-fixers who are today conveniently representing their respective nations? Which unfortunate act was a bigger mistake? And what wrong did Hales actually do other than that incident, which he was clearly guilty of? The very year where he was banned, Alex Hales averaged 52 with the bat, circa 2018. His strike rate was 97.
If England, a country whose great performances have inspired first and entertained later, cannot pardon a young man, who didn’t commit the errand intentionally, then which great cricketing power will lead by an example to show that while it stands true to its commitment toward excellence, it also pardons fine talents, albeit ensuring such acts don’t happen again?