The Alex Hales debate - Darren Gough backs England as Chris Waters defends the player

England's Alex Hales: Left "devastated" after he was removed fromthe World Cup squad.
England's Alex Hales: Left "devastated" after he was removed fromthe World Cup squad.
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Alex Hales was dramatically ditched from England’s World Cup squad after reports emerged that he was serving a 21-day ban having twice tested positive for recreational drugs. Were England right or wrong? Here, Darren Gough and Chris Waters make their case.

DARREN GOUGH

It is the right decision by Ashley Giles to drop him from the World Cup squad. Cricket has been in the newspapers for the wrong reasons over the last 18 months under the previous management. Giles has had to come in and be strong.

Darren Gough

ULTIMATELY, I have no sympathy for Alex Hales following his axing from the England World Cup squad and there are plenty of other players standing up to take his place.

Yes, he’s a top player and is in your best 15-man squad and has a serious talent.

But recreational drugs are sadly becoming the norm in cricket and I think it is a concern. I had heard that it was rife when I was playing a fair few years ago and something has to be done about it.

It is no good everyone putting their heads in the sand and saying: ‘It does not happen in our sport.’

When I was playing, I was hearing stories about cricketers and recreational drugs.

When you are playing a professional sport for a county and members are paying memberships to watch you play, it is no good when you have a player who is not playing because he has failed a drugs test. Not once, but twice.

On the Hales situation, he did a recent interview saying he has got to live with one mistake through his whole career. This was before this three-week ban for a second positive test for recreational drugs.

To be banned for just 21 days is ridiculous. My initial thoughts were that it was not long enough and that he should have got longer. I did have some sympathy for Hales with the situation initially, but the more I think about it and look into it, I do not.

It is the right decision by Ashley Giles to drop him from the World Cup squad. Cricket has been in the newspapers for the wrong reasons over the last 18 months under the previous management. Giles has had to come in and be strong.

He warned all the players in the West Indies and this is the first time he has had to put his foot down. If he had let this one go by, what message does it send out.

I do think the law has to change. Twenty-one days is not long enough for a second offence. The first time should be 21 days, but the second time should be a year. It should not be at the ‘third strike’.

You are almost saying ‘well if you do it again (a second time), you only get a 21-day ban’.

You are in a professional position where you have say 10 years to commit to being a professional sportsman.

So, ultimately, I have no sympathy for anyone caught using recreational drugs. For me, 21 days was too small a ban.

What did concern me at first is that people did have to make sure that Hales is okay before everyone dived in and slagged him off.

But I did change my mind on the situation when his management company came out and actually slagged off the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Yes, they did have a bit of a point as it looks like the ECB tried to sweep the issue under the carpet.

Yet once the news of his second offence came out on social media, they then had to kick him out of the World Cup squad. They had no option.

The problem is that the first time he failed the test for recreational drugs, the only people who got to know were the welfare officer of the Professional Cricketers’ Association. Straightaway, everyone should be informed when you fail a drug test – the first time.

There is no excuse should you get done for a second violation as that is when Tom Harrison, the chief executive from the ECB and David Leatherdale – his PCA equivalent – get to know along with the counties. Then you get the 21-day ban and something like a five per cent fine of your annual salary.

A third failure of a test is then a 12-month ban. So I do feel things have got to be changed.

The first failure should be a longer ban but it is important that you make sure the player is mentally in a good place and not, say, turning to drugs to hide something more serious.

But for Hales to get done just before a World Cup is absolutely unbelievable. I find it amazing.

His absence obviously presents a big chance for someone regarding the World Cup such as Ben Duckett and Dawid Malan.

James Vince, however, would be my pick. His List A average over the last three years is around the 70 mark.

Ben Foakes, although a wicketkeeper, may just be an outsider as well. When you look at his Royal London Cup record in the last three years, he averages nearly 70 as well.

Others knocking on the door are Liam Livingstone, Joe Clarke and Sam Hain so there are plenty of options.

CHRIS WATERS

ALEX HALES has been a fool.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to be banned for using recreational drugs once might be regarded as a misfortune; to be banned for a second time looks like carelessness/stupidity.

There can be no justification, in any case, for taking recreational drugs which are, after all, illegal.

That established, I cannot subscribe to the majority view that England were right to drop Hales from their World Cup squad.

It is not that I disagree with the decision per se; there are arguments on both sides, although I would personally lean towards backing a player who has flouted what is considered to be a welfare issue by the England and Wales Cricket Board as opposed to a disciplinary one, an issue which carried only a 21-day ban that has now been served.

Rather, it is why the decision was taken in the first place.

As Ashley Giles, the managing director of England men’s cricket, has admitted, it was not for the drugs offence per se – an offence of which both he and ECB chief executive Tom Harrison had full knowledge of before the squad was picked – but only because the story went public.

Since then, it has seeped out that the team management and some players do not like Hales – a bit like Kevin Pietersen in a previous era, perhaps – and were consulted before the decision was taken to remove him from the squad.

Giles clarified that he wanted to protect the team environment ahead of an important summer, free of any unwanted distractions.

Fair enough… provided that this decision had been made at the start of the process.

Granted, there has been much talk of confidentiality agreements and how Giles and Harrison’s hands were tied legally as to who they could or could not tell about the ban; the selectors apparently had no idea when they picked Hales in the provisional party.

Damningly, though, The Times reported that in the days after Hales’s positive test, he had two meetings with Harrison and a separate meeting with Giles.

The paper added that Hales was assured that if he accepted the 21-day ban and agreed to see an ECB-appointed mentor, the matter would be closed (this mentor apparently assessed Hales to be in the right frame of mind to play for England, while the player also voluntarily booked himself on to a drug education programme, something he did not have to do).

In other words, the ECB seemed initially to have agreed with my own position – namely, that despite his involvement in the Bristol affair with Ben Stokes and his palpable stupidity, that Hales did not warrant the sanction of deselection – or, as the squad had then yet to be picked, non-selection.

Surely if he had done something so serious that England ultimately felt that they had no option but to axe him, Harrison et al could have intervened earlier regardless of any confidentiality clauses/legalities; lawyers, after all, do not select squads/manage other people’s workforces.

If Hales really is such a disruptive influence, then why did the selectors pick him in that knowledge anyway, with captain Eoin Morgan now citing “a complete breakdown of trust” that can hardly be new?

Further, you cannot have clearly defined rules in place on the one hand to deal with drugs offences and full knowledge, as the ECB had, and then ditch a player only when it has become public and a couple of former England captains have had a go in the press.

Hales’s management company said that while not seeking to excuse his conduct, “at every stage Alex fulfilled his obligations and… was given assurances that any suspension – again under the ECB’s guidelines – could not affect his selection for the World Cup”.

This, therefore, is quite clearly a leadership failure on the ECB’s part, a decision taken only because the story went public.

As such, it is yet another entry on their own considerable charge sheet, which includes their handling of the Ben Stokes affair and the disastrous publicity concerning The Hundred.

Amazingly, the ECB have pulled off something quite remarkable.

They have managed to come out of this situation looking worse than Hales.