If collecting Air Miles had been his thing, then this past winter would have been very rewarding indeed for Alex Hales. As it was, the 23-year-old Nottinghamshire batsman gained something far more important – valuable experience.
In his quest to play cricket at the very highest level, he’s barely been at home since the end of last season.
“It’s been a very good winter in terms of playing in different conditions,” said Hales. “I seem to have covered most of the globe, with England tours to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Dubai and now we’re here in Barbados with Notts.”
The last twelve months have seen the Hillingdon-born opener make massive advances in his professional life. Despite winning a County Championship medal in 2010, an innings of 184 against Somerset at Trent Bridge last July really made people stand up and take notice, including the Nottinghamshire committee who awarded him his county cap the following day.
Seen as one of a crop of ‘bright young things’ in the modern game, Alex was blooded into the full international arena last summer, with an England Twenty20 debut against India at Old Trafford. Two matches against the West Indies followed, before his first winter flight for a match in Kolkata.
“The intensity in India for the Twenty20 match was electric,” he said. “There were 40,000 people there, easily the most I’ve played in front of but it was a great experience and I learnt a lot just by being a part of it.
“Bangladesh was very different and nothing like I’d ever experienced before. They were very slow, turning wickets which you don’t tend to get in England, and the living conditions were also slightly different, but it’s something you’ve got to do and I enjoyed my time with the lads out there.”
The only downside to his adventures came towards the end of his travels when he was left out of all three Twenty20 matches against Pakistan in the UAE.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed not to play. I’d been looking forward to it ever since the squad was announced but it’s one of those things. All I can do is keep scoring runs for Notts and hope to put myself in the frame for a place.”
Hales’s place at the top of the order, alongside Craig Kieswetter, went to Kevin Pietersen, a selection decision that he completely understood.
“I realise why they took the decision to promote Kevin,” he added. “Obviously he’s a massive player for England and he did really well opening in the one-dayers, so if that’s where he wants to bat in the Twenty20s then he should do so, because he’s a great player.”
Hales, meanwhile, will continue to open the batting for Notts in all three formats this year, having been tried at number three at the start of the last campaign.
“I was batting in the first couple of overs for much of the time anyway and Mick Newell has said that if I want to get my name mentioned for the main Test squad the best opportunity will probably be when Andrew Strauss steps down, so I’m seeing that as perhaps my best chance to break in.”
If those Test dreams do become a reality, indeed, then there are sure to be plenty more opportunities to top up those Air Miles.