IPL 2018: Big boots to fill but I've got to enjoy it, says Alex Hales on replacing David Warner
England batsman talks about replacing David Warner at Sunrisers Hyderabad and more
England's Alex Hales celebrates his half century during the fifth and final ODI against New Zealand at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on March 10, 2018. Pic/AFP
With an unprecedented 10 English players invited to the IPL jamboree this year, England's only T20I centurion, Alex Hales, was a conspicuous absentee, having gone unsold at the mega auction.
However, Schadenfreude produced by the events on the third day of the third Test between South Africa and Australia in Cape Town, leading to the suspension of Steve Smith and David Warner - both top-order batsmen and captains of Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad respectively - for a year, meant that Hales was back in the reckoning, and he was prepared for it.
"I always had it at the back of my mind that two top-order batsmen were unavailable and that may put me in the frame for a couple of franchises," the opener told mid-day.com. "So, you know, when I was back home in England it meant staying fit, staying ready, having some nets and keep on top of my fitness just in case the call came and when it did I was very excited, and I am looking forward to it," he said.
Hales was eventually bought by Sunrisers Hyderabad at his base price of INR 1 crore from the available player pool list. Given a chance at the top of the order, Hales will be replacing the talismanic Warner, who was the tournament's highest run-getter last season and the second highest in the league in 2016 when he led Sunrisers Hyderabad to the title. While recognising the magnitude of the task, Hales is unperturbed by the weight of expectation.
"I think I've got to enjoy it. Obviously, they are big boots to fill. Warner's led the team exceptionally well and obviously set the tone at the top of the order so there's already eyes and expectations on me, but I think the important thing for me is that I enjoy the challenge and embrace it."
Hales' previous stint in the IPL was uneventful as he warmed the bench for the Mumbai Indians in 2015 but givenSunrisers' coach Tom Moody's assertion that the right-handed Hales would be a perfect foil to Shikhar Dhawan, one needn't be a soothsayer to predict that his opportunity isn't far away. Moody had also sighted Hales' recent commitment to white-ball cricket as the clincher for his call-up. Hales has signed a two-year white-ball contract with his county Nottinghamshire entailing that he will only feature for them in limited overs cricket till September 2019. While the move effectively rules out a Test recall, he said that part of the motivation behind his decision was to send the right message to franchises around the world.
"It sends a message that I am committed to try and excel and push my boundaries in white-ball cricket. I guess that sends a message hopefully to coaches that I am really dedicated to being as good as I can with the white ball, so hopefully it works in my favour."
But exclusive dedication to white-ball cricket notwithstanding, after a virtual round of musical chairs for the opening slot Hales was usurped by Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy at the top of the order in New Zealand recently. He is hopeful that a successful IPL will catapult him back into the reckoning as the first-choice opener.
"Any form of runs and standing out in a tournament of such high standard as this will set you in good stead for national selection as well. The last six months have been frustrating, sort of being on the fringes of the side and that was also another reason that made me want to focus even more on white-ball cricket and picking white-ball cricket ahead of red-ball cricket. We lead straight into an Australia One-Day series from this tournament, so any form or any game time I can get will help," he concluded.