The future of this winter’s Ashes remains in the balance after the England and Wales Cricket Board insisted it will only proceed with the tour if head coach Chris Silverwood can select a squad “befitting a series of this significance”.
In a statement issued on Monday, the ECB said a decision on the tour will be made by the board later this week after further talks with Cricket Australia over the Covid-related living conditions and quarantine provisions being put in place.
It follows a meeting involving players, support staff, the ECB and Cricket Australia on Sunday evening in which details of how the tour will look were finally shared. While some progress is said to have been made during what one source called “sensitive” discussions, significant questions clearly remain.
The upshot is that a number of multi-format players – including Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes – fly to Oman on Monday evening to start preparing for the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates still uncertain as to how long their time away from home will be.
Over the coming days, as further information goes back and forth between the two boards, England’s players will have to decide whether to make themselves available for the five-match series that starts at the Gabba on 8 December. Silverwood, head coach and selector, is set to name a squad this week.
Tim Paine, the Australia captain, recently said the series will go ahead regardless of which players are selected by England. But the ECB clearly has a different view on this, with its latest update hinting at a cancellation or postponement if its men’s team is significantly weakened.
The ECB statement read: “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.
“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.”
The chief issue surrounding quarantine for family members appears to remain in place but CA are looking to reassure England’s players that, with Australia’s currently stringent borders set to open up once the vaccination rate in the country reaches 80 per cent by the end of November, things will change.
Paul Collingwood, the England assistant coach, summed up the feeling in the camp in a post on Instagram before the white-ball side’s departure for the T20 World Cup.
Collingwood wrote: “I love my job and I’m so excited for the winter of cricket ahead but saying goodbye to your daughters for potentially 3 months is not easy, no matter how tough you feel you are.
“We all make sacrifices in life. Looking forward to meeting up with the team tomorrow because I know we will try to help each other like a family.”