The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has declared “no special deals” will be forthcoming for this summer’s Ashes amid English unease about family support and quarantine arrangements.
The five-Test men’s cricket series is scheduled to begin in Brisbane on 8 December, while the multi-format women’s Ashes is set to start in Canberra on 27 January.
Joe Root’s England team, weary of bubble fatigue and the prospect of further restrictions even after clearing quarantine, have made no secret of their concerns about this summer.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia (CA) have been locked in dialogue throughout this year, with the issue becoming increasingly urgent and players expected to receive the terms of the tour imminently.
Cricket Australia’s attempt to finalise quarantine and biosecurity plans that satisfy all parties, including Queensland’s risk-averse state government, has proven predictably complex.
There is hope that the coming days and weeks will deliver a breakthrough in talks between the ECB and its Test players, ensuring a near full-strength squad arrives for the iconic series.
England’s quarantine concessions will be dictated by whichever state accommodates their arrival, with the current version of the itinerary believed to start with a quarantine stint at a Gold Coast resort.
But the ECB is at the mercy of the federal government regarding its touring party’s size and entry to Australia, including questions about family members flying out with the squad or linking up later in the trip.
Morrison, speaking after he met with British counterpart Boris Johnson in Washington, made it clear his government will not grant any special favours.
“I would love to see the Ashes go ahead, as I shared with Boris last night,” Morrison said. “But there’s no special deals there.
“I don’t see a great deal of difference in skilled workers or students, who will be able to come to Australia when you reach the vaccination rates.”
Morrison reiterated international travel would resume at 80 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage, for over 16s. Johnson put a different spin on his discussion with Morrison at dinner. “I raised it and he said he was going to do his best for the families,” Johnson told reporters.
“He totally got the point that for cricketers it is very tough to ask people to be away from their families over Christmas. He merely undertook to come back and see if he could find a solution.”
India’s squad and some family members travelled to Australia a year ago. CA brokered a last-minute deal with the NSW government on that occasion after negotiations with Queensland Health hit a wall.
The England paceman Stuart Broad last week said he will fly to Australia but understood if teammates opted out of the tour, arguing CA had thus far provided “minimal detail” about quarantine and other issues.