Hales has been carrying the drinks for the first four matches of the tournament during which time an unchanged XI has chalked up only one victory, against Scotland, amid defeats at the hands of Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
In a World Cup dominated by the bat – a record-equalling 17 scores of 300-plus have been achieved after only 26 of the 49 scheduled matches, three of which have broken the 400 barrier – England have looked off the pace, with the struggles of Gary Ballance at No3 a gruesome subplot to the overall malaise.
Despite his own winter of discontent the calls for Hales to be restored have inevitably grown as a result. While Broad is himself a man short on form with only two wickets and an economy rate north of six runs an over, he insists England could do worse than turn to his Nottinghamshire team-mate.
“[Hales] is a player who can change momentums of games,” Broad said. “We are looking for players to stand up. Every player should be thinking: ‘I can change the momentum of this World Cup.’”
England’s reluctance to use Hales has been curious. Since a breathtaking 116 not out against Sri Lanka in last year’s World Twenty20, the right-hander has picked up only seven 50-over caps. After he made his debut against India last summer, the team management quickly convinced themselves Hales’ game had too many flaws to stand up to scrutiny in the one-day format. Broad does not agree.
“He is the sort of player who can get you nought or 140,” said Broad before a return to training following three days off. “He is a dangerous player. That World Cup knock in Bangladesh against Sri Lanka was one of the best you’ve seen. He obviously struggled when he came into the 50-over side a bit but I don’t know if he has technical faults. He has scored six or seven hundreds for Notts in the past two years.”
That Ballance has underwhelmed – his scores of 10, 10, 10 and six have made tough viewing – reflects worse on the management than the player himself, who went into the tournament opener against Australia with only one warm-up match to his name, having missing the Tri-Series because of a broken finger.
Where England go from here is intriguing. James Taylor, the man shunted down to No6 to accommodate Ballance, will hope to move back up the order while Ian Bell may drop one spot from opener to bring Hales back in. Broad is not envious of those making the decision.
“I like [Hales] as a player. He has been a good team-mate of mine and I have watched him play some great knocks at Notts,” he added. “But also I think Ballance and Taylor’s domestic records are above anyone else by a country mile.
“Gary has obviously not clicked in this World Cup so far but again it is a tough time to come in. He had not played in the Tri-Series and in he comes but, fortunately, while my dream is to be the youngest chairman of selectors there has ever been, I am not there yet.”
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