Tim Paine has declared the Ashes will begin on 8 December regardless of whether counterpart Joe Root is part of the tour, also giving Kevin Pietersen a clip for being the “expert on everything”.
Uncertainty over England’s participation in cricket’s showpiece Test series has been a talking point through recent months, with the visitors concerned about quarantine concessions, biosecurity restrictions, bubble fatigue and family support.
The matter even formed part of the agenda when prime ministers Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson recently dined in Washington.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will soon press players to commit, wanting to name an Ashes squad.
Root said earlier this week he is “desperate” to captain England in the five-Test series but wasn’t ready to commit because of uncertainty about arrangements in Australia.
Paine pointedly noted he did not care which Englishmen agree to tour.
“They’ll have a choice to make, you either get on that plane or don’t,” Australia’s captain said on radio station SEN. “No one is forcing you to come. If you don’t want to come, don’t come.
“The Ashes are going ahead. The first Test is on 8 December, whether Joe is here or not. There will be a squad of England players coming here.”
Paine, who is recovering from neck surgery and expects to play several games for Tasmania before the Ashes begin, cast doubt on whether any Englishman is genuinely unsure about flying out.
“We have not heard one England player come out and say they will not be coming. I think it’s been beat up,” the wicketkeeper said.
“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.
“They all want to come, there’s no doubt about that. They’re trying to get themselves the best possible conditions they can. But we all are. We don’t want to give them poor conditions because we’re going to be in the same boat. It’ll be worked out.”
Australia and England’s multi-format stars will take part in the Twenty20 World Cup in the UAE before flying out for the Ashes.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan has urged Root’s side to commit to touring Australia.
But Pietersen, who played 15 Tests in Australia and also captained England, said there was zero chance he would fly out unless “my family could travel with zero restrictions”.
“If you want to know anything on any topic in the world, you just ask Kevin,” Paine said. “He is an expert on everything. Kev, mate, leave it to the players, let them speak.”