Mark Wood has said that England’s players will take their lead from white-ball captain Eoin Morgan and the team’s management regarding a possible international recall for Alex Hales.
Hales has not played for England since March 2019, and was deselected on the eve of last year’s World Cup after it emerged he had failed a second recreational drugs test, but his hopes of a recall had been boosted in the past few weeks, after Morgan suggested the “door was still open” for him and Chris Woakes said that he believed that “people deserve a second chance”.
England are expected to name an enlarged training group of up to 45 players on Friday, with Hales among a number of players facing a nervous wait to find out if he has been included. Morgan confirmed on Wednesday that he had spoken to Hales during lockdown, but poured cold water on the likelihood of an imminent return, reiterating that the batsman had shown “complete disregard” for the team’s values.
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Speaking to Sky Sports, Wood said that it would be “very hard” for players to support a return for Hales if Morgan and the squad’s management did not, and questioned whether it would be fair for the batsman to force another player out of the squad.
Asked if he would be happy to see Hales return, Wood said: “Yes and no, I guess – it’s a difficult one. If that trust isn’t there with the captain and the management, then I think it’s very hard for the rest of the players to jump on board with that.
“I think once they’re comfortable with it and the trust is back… I think the players might be open to him coming back into the environment. I’m sure he would be treated exactly the same [as everyone else].
“The only thing I think is difficult is that if a player has come in and earned their spot and done really well, do you just leave them out for Alex to come back in? Do they deserve their chance more than him? I don’t know: that’s one for the top brass to talk about. But I think he would be welcomed back if that trust was built back up from the people above.”
The ECB have stressed that the group of players named tomorrow will be a training party rather than an official squad, but it expected that around 12 batsmen – including wicketkeepers – will be added to the 18 bowlers who have already return to individual training, with the expectation that they will be able to begin training at some point next week.
Around 15 further players will be named with a focus on white-ball cricket, who are expected to begin training in mid-June to build up slowly ahead of the three-match ODI series against Ireland, for which a late July start date has been pencilled in.
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The red-ball bowling group, including Wood, returned to training last week on a strict individual basis, with their immediate focus on getting fit ahead of the proposed Test series against West Indies. The first Test is due to be start on July 8, with Cricket West Indies expected to give the series the green light at Thursday’s board meeting.
Morgan hinted on Wednesday that the white-ball training group could include some relatively new faces, as England look to give players opportunities. That may mean chances in the Ireland series for younger players like Tom Banton, Phil Salt and Pat Brown, while Sam Billings, Liam Plunkett and David Willey will discover if they have been handed recalls. Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence and Keaton Jennings are among the players on the fringes of the Test squad who will hope to be included.
“We’ve openly said even before the outbreak of the pandemic that we would use ODIs primarily to try and grow our squad of 15 players,” Morgan said. “I think when it comes closer to the T20 games that are scheduled at the moment in September [against Australia], we will try and get as many players as we can close to our strongest team, provided the [T20] World Cup is still in the same place.
“If it’s not, I think we could still look to expand on that squad of players. I think we can grow the white-ball squad and the Test side can still perform.”
Wood added that he would prefer to focus on Tests rather than limited-overs cricket this summer, saying he “would love to keep my spot” after a man-of-the-match performance in England’s most recent outing in South Africa. He also suggested Jamie Porter and Brydon Carse as possible inclusions in Friday’s long-list, describing the latter – his Durham team-mate – as “someone that can bowl good licks”.