Alex Hales admits he thought his England career was over after three and a half years in the international wilderness.
The Nottinghamshire striker has not represented his country since being dumped on the eve of the 2019 World Cup following two failed recreational drug tests.
Hales had to watch his teammates win the tournament from the sidelines after a remarkable final against New Zealand at Lord’s.
But the 33-year-old is back in the fold after being called up to replace injured Jonny Bairstow in Matthew Mott’s squad for next month’s tournament in Australia.
“I thought the opportunity wouldn’t come again,” Hales said in an article published by the Daily Telegraph. “As a cricketer, it’s your worst nightmare to be involved in a World Cup squad, to miss the watch and watch your team.
“Obviously it’s great to see the team lifting it, but at the same time it eats at you inside that you should have been a part of it and you weren’t a part of it.”
England Test captain Ben Stokes was close to Hales, but that bond soured following a late-night incident outside a Bristol nightclub in 2017, which led the first to be charged and eventually acquitted of the fight.
Former England one-day captain Eoin Morgan also cited a “complete breakdown of trust” for Hales’ prolonged absence.
However, Hales’ form – as well as Morgan’s retirement – has seen him forcefully back into the minds of selectors.
“I think I’ve changed,” added Hales, who will take part in England’s Pakistan tour which begins on Tuesday.
“I have definitely matured. I’m comfortably in my thirties now and becoming a veteran.
“I feel like I have grown as a person and where I am right now on the pitch and off the pitch is probably the best of my career so far. To have that chance again is something I am really proud.
“It was disappointing not to be in the team for three years. In the end, it was my fault, wasn’t it? I did what I did. I just have to put my hands up, you have to look in the mirror and try to improve as a person and learn from your mistakes.