England to make Australia travel call, ECB statement

The England and Wales Cricket Board has suggested a decision will be made this week on whether an England team will travel to Australia for this summer’s Ashes series.

Cricket Australia has been negotiating with the federal government, as well as the ECB, over what travel and living conditions could look like for an England touring party, including whether families would be allowed to fly with the team.

England captain Joe Root has previously suggested players mightn’t travel if families couldn’t come and/or quarantine conditions for his team during the lengthy stay were deemed too harsh.

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In a statement released on Monday night (AEDT), the ECB said it’d been in talks with England players and management over the weekend, adding a call on the highly-anticipated series would likely be made within days.

“We remain in regular and positive dialogue with Cricket Australia over these arrangements as the picture is constantly evolving. With health and wellbeing at the forefront, our focus is to ensure the tour can go ahead with conditions for players and management to perform at their best,” an ECB statement read.

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“We will continue talking to our players this week to share the latest information and seek feedback.

“Later this week the ECB Board will meet to decide whether the conditions in place are sufficient for the Tour to go ahead and enable the selection of a squad befitting a series of this significance.”

Aussie captain Tim Paine last week suggested the ongoing speculation was more smoke and mirrors, adamant the Ashes would start on December 8 “whether Joe is here or not”.

Paine told SEN Hobart: “No one is forcing any England 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.”

But the fact the ECB is after conditions that “enable the selection of a squad befitting a series of this significance” suggests it only intends to send its best group of players.

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Multi-format England players potentially face months of travelling and living in biosecure bubbles. The T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman starts on October 17 before the Ashes series in December and January.

The issue of players’ wellbeing was brought sharply into focus in July when it was announced that star England all-rounder Ben Stokes would be taking an indefinite break from cricket to “prioritise” his mental health.

Root’s team is due to play a five-Test series starting in Brisbane on December 8, with further matches in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

Australia are the current holders of the Ashes after retaining the urn following a 2-2 draw in England in 2019. They won the last series “Down Under” in 2017/18 4-0.

— with AFP

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