(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)
Published: Tue 7 Feb 2023, 5:50 PM
Alex Hales' name will be right up there among the greatest comeback men in the history of all sports.
Banned and snubbed by the English cricket authorities after a failed drug test in 2019, Hales was a broken man whose glass was half empty when England went on to win their first-ever ODI World Cup later that summer, beating New Zealand by the barest of margins in a dramatic finish that sparked wild celebrations at Lord's.
But three years later, Jonny Bairstow's freak injury earned Hales a shot at redemption.
It was a chance Hales grabbed with both hands, playing match-winning knocks as England won the T20 World Cup Down Under last year.
Now, the right-handed shot-maker is leading the top-scorers' chart in the inaugural DP World ILT20 in the UAE, scoring 456 runs for the Desert Vipers.
The Vipers will be banking on Hales when they lock horns with the Gulf Giants in the Qualifier 1 on Wednesday at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium for a place in Sunday's final on the same ground.
During an exclusive interview with the Khaleej Times, Hales opened up on his comeback from the lowest phase of his life and also revealed why he has his grandfather, former tennis player Dennis Ralston, to thank for his skills as an athlete.
Q. Alex, the Desert Vipers have reached the playoffs and you have played a big role with your bat, scoring 456 runs...
We have plenty of experienced players in the squad and we know that you don't win a tournament by starting well. When the play-off games and, hopefully, the final come around; it's all about peaking at the right time and that is what we are aiming to do.
We are all obviously ambitious but also it's a case of making sure we never get too high if we do well and never get down on ourselves if we don't win. I remember in the T20 World Cup, playing for England, we lost to Ireland but that didn't suddenly make us a poor side. It was just a case of making sure we stuck to our plans and processes and believing they would see us through, which they did. It's the same now with the Desert Vipers. Alex Hales has played some fantastic knocks in the ILT20. - Desert Vipers
Q . ILT20 is a new tournament, more importantly, it's being held in an Associate country. What's the kind of impact you think this tournament will have on the sport in the UAE?
I think it is brilliant that this tournament is being hosted in an Associate country and is also giving a platform to UAE and other Associate players to perform. It means those players are getting a chance to rub shoulders with some of the best players in the world and so it is a great opportunity for them. I know at the Desert Vipers we are really enjoying the chance to work alongside those players and hopefully they are enjoying the experience of playing alongside and against some world-class players in this tournament. It all adds up to something that can only benefit UAE cricket in the long run.
Q. You were one of the heroes for England in the T20 World Cup triumph in Australia. Personally, how satisfying was it to taste success collectively and individually on your return to the big stage?
It was and is a special feeling. It was something I did not think I would get a chance to do again, playing in a World Cup. I think I will be riding that wave for some time. The depth and quality of England's T20 options now is incredible so it was pleasing to be called up in the first place and to then play a part in the win was the icing on the cake.
Q. Given the way you have been performing, you are probably confident of getting back into the 50 overs England side in the World Cup year?
I think for the time being my focus lies purely on T20 cricket. It is a format where, over the last three years, I have gotten better at a really quick rate. I think for the time being I am just going to focus on T20 Cricket, and probably give that 50-over World Cup some thought. I know there is a World Cup in India this year, but for the moment my focus is on this tournament and the T20 franchise circuit. Straight after this tournament I head off to the PSL. I'm thinking purely about the Desert Vipers now, then once I arrive in Pakistan my thoughts will just be on Islamabad United, where I'll once again be lining up alongside Colin Munro. You have to see what the future holds, you just never know.
Q. Like everybody else in life, you had your share of ups and downs. You have shown incredible resilience and character to come back in such fashion. What would you tell youngsters from what you have learned from the difficult moments in your life?
The key is to focus on what's in front of you now. If you're batting, then it's the next ball. There's no point in thinking too deeply about what's gone because you can't control that, and you can't control what's in the future either. There's a saying which goes 'control the controllables' and that's what I've learned most from my career. Prepare properly and then the rest will take care of itself. T20 cricket does throw up some surprises but proper preparation means that you minimise the chances of those throwing you off course completely.
Q. Your grandfather, Dennis Ralston, was an accomplished tennis player who reached the Wimbledon final in 1966. He also took the legendary Rod Laver to five sets at Wimbledon. Did you also have a bit of tennis skills when you were growing up? Former American tennis player Dennis Ralston. - Davis Cup Twitter
I guess I have my granddad to thank for the ball skills I have, although my dad was a very good cricketer too, so the truth is that I come from a family that has always had ball sports at its heart. I love my tennis and I played at a decent standard when I was younger, but as I became more and more committed to cricket then other sports tended to fall by the wayside and tennis was one of those. Having said that, I do try to play a couple of times a week if I can as it is a fun way of maintaining fitness and agility. I'd love to play a bit of local club football too, but I think the risk of injury while I'm still playing is just too high, and in any case I play a lot of cricket overseas in the winter when the football season is on back home, so that idea will be on the back-burner for the foreseeable future.
Q. What are the other sports you follow? Any football club that you follow passionately? Any other athlete/athletes from other sports that you admire...
Although I've spent virtually my whole cricket career in Nottingham – and so I do follow the fortunes of Nottingham Forest – I'm originally from Buckinghamshire, which is north of London, and I've always been an Arsenal fan. It's great to see what they are doing in the Premier League this season after such a long time when the club didn't challenge for top honours. They've assembled a great group of young players and the future looks very bright for the club.
Q. What Alex Hales likes to do when he is not playing cricket?
Golf is a big passion of mine and I love the chance to play whenever I get the chance. Here in the UAE, and in Dubai, there are so many terrific courses, that's it's a pleasure to switch off from cricket and relax by enjoying some fresh air.
Q. Favourite movies/musicians...
If you're in a cricket dressing room then you must like most music because it's played in the dressing room or on the team bus all the time, and it needs to fit across a range of tastes. Our Strength and Conditioning guru Darren Veness is in charge of the tunes most of time for the Desert Vipers and he'll often take requests from the boys. The last one I asked for was by a band called Slipknot, called Wait and Bleed, quite an old track but it has terrific energy.
As for movies, I think I'm like many people these days – I'll see what's on Netflix and make a call from there.
Q. Finally, is Dubai among your favourite cities?
Yes, it is, and it was a big factor in me deciding to play in the ILT20 given that there are several other T20 tournaments going on around the world at the same time.
It's a combination of things for me. The cricket grounds are great and the accommodation is excellent too. The fact in this tournament that we can stay in one place and so there's no need to pack and unpack, and fly between venues, has also been a big attraction to get involved in this tournament, as is the fact that it is unique in the way it is promoting Associate cricket and Associate players.
Golf is also an attraction for me too, and although the schedule for the tournament is very tight, I've still been able to play at some lovely courses. The weather is excellent at this time of year, although it can get a bit chilly in the evenings, and having played cricket here so much over the years, most recently in the T10 in Abu Dhabi late last year, there is a familiarity about the place that adds to the comfort level. It's a great place to be, especially at this time of year.
australia t20 skipper aaron finch retires from internationals after 'amazing ride'
exclusive: dubai's cricket museum bowls over england legend