The England and Wales Cricket Board has refused to guarantee that the highly anticipated Ashes series will continue.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has refused to guarantee the 2021/22 Ashes series will continue, with a final decision due this week.
This summer’s roster has been shrouded in uncertainty after players in the England camp have expressed concerns about traveling to Australia and coping with the country’s strict quarantine regulations, especially if their families are not allowed to join them.
The current Covid-19 situation in Australia has severely hampered negotiations between Cricket Australia, the ECB and the federal government, while the recent rescheduling of Sheffield Shield matches would also alarm the camp in England.
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According to reports, CA has proposed that the England squad arrive in Queensland in November and conduct a 14-day quarantine period during which they would be allowed to train.
On Monday evening, the ECB released a statement further calling into question the much-anticipated series, indicating that some of the team’s leading players were still unwilling to abide by Australia’s strict Covid-19 protocols.
The board’s statement suggested it would consider canceling the Ashes tour if enough older players drop out.
“Over the weekend we spoke with English men and management to give them the latest information on the proposed arrangements for this winter’s planned Ashes tour,” the statement said.
“We remain in a regular and positive dialogue with Cricket Australia on these arrangements as the picture is constantly evolving. With health and wellness at the forefront, our focus is to ensure the tour can continue providing conditions for players and management to perform at their best.
“We will continue to talk to our players this week to share the latest information and ask for feedback.
“Later this week, the ECB board will meet to decide whether the existing conditions are sufficient to allow the Tour to go ahead and allow the selection of a squad that fits a range of this significance.”
According to the Australian, the five-Test series is estimated to be worth AUD$200 million worth of Australian cricket.
While the Australian government plans to ease quarantine restrictions on fully vaccinated citizens in November, overseas travelers will not receive the same luxuries until a later date.
Some cricket experts have suggested that the ECB’s statement is just a ploy to pressure the Australian government into giving the England squad special treatment.
Last week, England skipper Joe Root shared his concerns about the Ashes tour, claiming he was “desperate” for the series to continue.
“It’s really important that everyone makes a decision that they’re comfortable with,” he said. “There are so many different factors involved, so we just have to be patient and wait until we know what’s going on and make a decision based on that.
“I have great hopes and I think I can speak on behalf of everyone that Ashes cricket – a trip to Australia – is one of those things that you are so eager to get involved in.
“Until we have information, it’s very difficult to know where everything is.”
But in response, Australian Test captain Tim Paine flatly dismissed any doubt about the series taking place.
“The Ashes continue. The first test is on December 8 – whether Joe is there or not. They all want to come, there’s no doubt about it,” Paine told his radio show SEN Hobart on Friday.
“It’s being worked out above us and then they have a choice whether to get on that plane or not.
“No one is forcing an English player to come. That’s the beauty of the world we live in – you have a choice. If you don’t want to come, don’t come.
“If you want to come represent your country and play in an Ashes series where Joe Root said, ‘That’s what they all want, that’s what they dream of,’ come and do it.”
The Australian wicketkeeper’s comments went down like a lead balloon in England.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain penned a scathing rebuke to Paine’s comments The daily email: “For people in Australia to lecture them and tell them to just suck it up is a bit rich.
“I understand all the arguments. Yes, the English Test players are paid handsomely. Yes, representing your country, especially in an away game, is the highest honor for a professional cricketer. Yes, some players have chosen to increase their own burden by participating in foreign T20 tournaments such as the IPL.
“I understand all that. But unless you’ve spent time in a bubble — and some of these guys have done it repeatedly — don’t lecture other people about how to behave.”
Australia has gone on ODI and T20 tours overseas during the pandemic, but most recently against the West Indies and Bangladesh it traveled with severely underloaded squads as the country’s biggest stars were either outfitted or chose to sit outside.
The Aussies toured England last August for a white-ball series before vaccines were available. However, the Test side has not played an away game since September 2019, six months before the pandemic started.
Meanwhile, England have played Test series in Sri Lanka and India this year before hosting New Zealand and India at home. Root’s men have already played 12 Tests in 2021.
Last month, England withdrew from a white-ball tour of Pakistan citing “increasing concerns about travel to the region”.
CA said in a statement: “We have had regular and positive discussions with the ECB over the past six months about providing conditions that will allow players from both teams to perform at their best during the Ashes summer.
“The health and well-being of both squads, while ensuring the tour proceeds in a safe manner, is a priority and we especially thank our government partners for all their support in this regard. We are also supported by rising vaccination rates and an evolving approach to the pandemic in Australia.
“The expected terms for the tour, including quarantine arrangements, have now been communicated to the ECB and directly to England players and staff.”
– with James Matthey