Former England and Yorkshire fast bowler Ryan Sidebottom talks Alex Hales, Australia and the Cricket World Cup.
Hales missing out will hurt badly
There's really not long now until the Cricket World Cup kicks off at the end of the month and things are starting to shape up nicely, albeit we could do with a bit of nice weather to really get us into the mood.
Unfortunately, one player who won't be on show is Alex Hales following the ECB's decision to withdraw him from the England squad once it was leaked that he was serving a 21-day ban due to recreational drug use.
Alex has been done for the same offence twice now and this time it's a mistake that will really cost him dear.
That said, I'm not too sure the whole episode has been handled that well by the ECB who have almost thrown Alex under the bus having admitted they had intended to keep the whole thing out of the public domain and let him play in the World Cup before then deciding to withdraw him - only once the story had been leaked.
I think it could have been dealt with much better and Alex, for all that he is clearly at fault, is right to feel a little bit aggrieved having initially been told that his indiscretion wouldn't cost him his World Cup place.
That said, I thought Eoin Morgan spoke brilliantly last week when addressing the issue, emphasising that the team comes first and how Alex had let the team down.
Again, Eoin just continues to impress on and off the field and England are lucky to have him as captain.
You can't get away from the fact that Alex has done wrong again and as well as letting his teammates down, he has let himself down and as a result, he will miss out on playing on the biggest stage of all.
We all know what a fantastic and destructive player Alex can be and he will be a big loss to England when they need all of their key players firing - he has been silly and immature and it could hurt both England's chances and his own career going forward.
If Alex were to make a big hundred in a World Cup match, something similar to what he did against Sri Lanka in the T20 World Cup only a few years ago, he would put himself in the shop window for IPL and Big Bash contracts. That chance has gone now.
I know what it means to play in a World Cup for your country and for Alex, I'm sure he will be devastated to be missing out on a World Cup in England.
I do think things are tougher for modern-day cricketers than in my day. With smartphones and social media, you have got to be so careful in whatever you do.
I made silly mistakes when I was younger, we all did, drinking all night then playing a match the next day. I remember once staying out until 5am in the morning and catching a milk float home before a game!
Times have changed, though, and I really hope Alex can turn things around because he's too good a player to let this type of thing hold him back.
Warner and Smith are back
Two players who won't be missing from this year's Cricket World Cup are David Warner and Steve Smith, both back in the Australia squad having served bans for their part in the ball-tampering scandal.
I know not everyone will agree with me here but I think it's good to see them back, it certainly benefits the competition, and Australian fans will know their team is much stronger with Warner and Smith propping up that batting line-up.
Personally, I thought the punishment they received was harsh and I don't think it would have been that way if so much hysteria hadn't have been stoked up in the immediate aftermath of the scandal.
I'd have much preferred for them to have been given a few months' ban with the catch that they went and did some sort of probation work in grass-roots cricket, leading coaching sessions in schools and maybe setting up summer camps.
I saw that Smith did a little bit of that but Cricket Australia might have just missed a trick there.
Nevertheless, they made their mistakes - and they certainly did make big mistakes - but have paid the price and we should all move on. Now it's time for them to get back to playing cricket and from what I've seen, they've really been smashing it up over the last few weeks.
Warner looked like a man possessed in the IPL, batting beautifully for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, while I see that Smith has found some form for Australia in their warm-up matches.
Australia are always a threat at any World Cup, particularly with a pace attack as strong as theirs, but Warner and Smith give their batting so much more depth and quality that the likes of England and India will have to be on their mettle.
It's all fitting into place nicely and I can't wait for what should be a brilliant World Cup.