Cricket news 2021: ECB leaves door ajar for shock Ashes cancellation, Tim Paine


The England and Wales Cricket Board has refused to guarantee that the highly-anticipated Ashes series will go ahead.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has refused to guarantee that the 2021/22 Ashes series will go ahead, with a final decision to be made this week.

This summer’s marquee series is clouded in uncertainty after players within the England camp voiced concerns about travelling to Australia and dealing with the country’s strict quarantine regulations — especially if their families are not allowed to join them.

Australia’s current Covid-19 situation has heavily impeded negotiations between Cricket Australia, the ECB and the Federal Government, while the recent rescheduling of Sheffield Shield matches would worry the England camp as well.

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According to reports, CA has proposed that England’s squad arrive in Queensland in November and perform a 14-day quarantine period, during which they would be allowed to train.

On Monday evening, the ECB released a statement that cast further doubt over the highly-anticipated series, indicating some of the team’s leading players were still unwilling to abide by Australia’s stringent Covid-19 protocols.

The Board’s statement suggested it would consider cancelling the Ashes tour if enough senior players pulled out.

“Over the weekend we have been talking to England men’s players and management to provide them with the latest information about the proposed arrangements for this winter’s scheduled Ashes tour,” the statement read.

“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.

“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.”

According to The Australian, the five-Test series is estimated to be worth AUD$200 million to Australian cricket.

Although the Australian government plans to soften quarantine restrictions to fully vaccinated citizens in November, overseas travellers will not receive the same luxuries until a later date.

Some cricket pundits have suggested the ECB statement is merely a ploy to pressure the Australian government into giving England’s squad special treatment.

Last week, England skipper Joe Root shared his concerns about the Ashes tour, claiming he was “desperate” for the series to go ahead.

“It‘s really important everyone makes a decision that they’re comfortable with,” he said. “There’s so many different factors that fall into it, so we just have to be patient, and wait until we know what’s happening and then make a decision on the back of that.

“I‘m very hopeful, and think I speak on behalf of everyone that Ashes cricket – an away tour to Australia – is one of those things that you’re just desperate to be on.

“Until we have information it’s very difficult to know where everything sits.”

But in response, Australian Test captain Tim Paine bluntly rejected any doubts about the series taking place.

“The Ashes are going ahead. The first Test is on December 8th — whether Joe is here or not. They all want to come, there’s no doubt about that,” Paine told his SEN Hobart radio show on Friday.

“It’ll be worked out above us and then they’ll have a choice whether to get on that plane or not.

“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.

“If you do want to come and represent your country and play in an Ashes series which Joe Root said, ‘That’s what they all want to do, that’s what they dream about doing,’ then come and do it.”

The Aussie wicketkeeper’s comments went down like a lead balloon in England.

Former England captain Nasser Hussain penned a scathing rebuke to Paine’s remarks in The Daily Mail: “For people in Australia to start lecturing them, and telling them they should simply suck it up, is a bit rich.

“I get all the arguments. Yes, England‘s Test players are paid handsomely. Yes, representing your country, particularly in an away Ashes, is the highest honour there is for a professional cricketer. Yes, some of the players have chosen to add to their own burden by taking part in overseas 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 — you don’t get to lecture other people on how they should behave.”

Australia has gone on ODI and T20 tours overseas during the pandemic but, most recently against the West Indies and Bangladesh, travelled with severely understrength squads as the country’s biggest stars were either rested or chose to sit out.

The Aussies toured England for a white-ball series in August last year before vaccines were available. However, the Test side has not played an away match since September 2019, six months before the pandemic started.

Meanwhile, this year England has played Test series in Sri Lanka and India 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 travelling to the region”.

CA said in a statement: “We have had regular and positive discussions with the ECB over the past six months on providing conditions which will allow players from both teams to perform at their best during the Ashes summer.

“The health and wellbeing 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 buoyed by rising vaccination rates and an evolving approach to the pandemic in Australia.

“The anticipated conditions for the tour, including quarantine arrangements have now been communicated to the ECB and directly to the England players and staff.”

– with James Matthey

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