The culture of modern white-ball cricket means it is easier for players to slip into recreational drug use, says former professional Simon Hughes.

His comments come after Alex Hales was withdrawn from England’s World Cup squad following an “off-field incident” that led to him being suspended.

Hughes said Hales was on “borrowed time” and the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had to drop him.

“You have got to take very severe action,” Hughes told BBC Sport.

“Unfortunately he hasn’t learned his lesson.”

Hales was reportedly suspended for recreational drug use, although the ECB has refused to confirm why the batsman was withdrawn, citing confidentiality concerns.

Test Match Special pundit Hughes said including Hales in an international squad would be “almost condoning taking recreational drugs”.

“I suspect they may have wanted to keep this issue out of the public domain. But once it’s in the open and everybody knows about it I don’t think they had any option,” he added.

Hales has played 11 Tests, 70 one-day internationals and 60 Twenty20 matches for England. He is now regarded as a white-ball specialist and in 2018 signed a new contract with Nottinghamshire to play only limited-overs matches until the end of the 2019 season.

He missed Nottinghamshire’s One-Day Cup games last week for what the county described as “personal reasons”.

He was part of a provisional 15-man squad named for the World Cup and has also been removed from the England squad for the one-day international against Ireland on Friday, as well as the Twenty20 international and ODI series against Pakistan.

The ECB said he had been withdrawn to ensure the team is “free from any distractions”.

His management company said in a statement it is “hugely disappointed at the treatment” of Hales for an incident that happened last year.

It said the ECB “insisted on Alex taking certain rehabilitation measures following his suspension” and that, “at every stage, Alex fulfilled his obligations and both he and his representatives were given assurances that any suspension – again under the ECB’s guidelines – could not affect his selection for the World Cup”.

The statement added: “The fact all those assurances seem to have been rendered meaningless has understandably left Alex devastated. He will take time to reflect on both his actions and the subsequent decisions, but will receive the support from his team he deserves.”

It is the second time Hales has been suspended, following his punishment – which also included a fine – for an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September 2017.

He did not face any criminal charges, while team-mate Ben Stokes was cleared of affray at a trial.

In addition to the incident in Bristol, Hales pleaded guilty to an ECB charge in relation to “inappropriate images”.

Hughes said of Hales: “The guy is a very genuine, lovely bloke who tries his best and wants to be a successful cricketer and obviously has been a very successful cricketer.

“The problem occurring with modern-day cricketers is a bit like footballers, especially if they are white ball-only cricketers, which Alex Hales is.

“He isn’t actually playing a lot of cricket, so there is a lot of down time to do other things – socialise, play golf, whatever, a bit like footballers – and with the money rolling around in the game it can lure you into taking illicit substances.

“I suppose that’s what’s happened and it’s become a bit of a culture in sport generally which needs stamping out.”


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