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Joe Root, England’s Test captain, has refused to confirm his participation in this winter’s Ashes tour as players continue to wait for full details of the trip, and in particular the Covid protocols that will be imposed on them in Australia.
“I think I speak on behalf of everyone that Ashes cricket, an away tour to Australia, is just one of those things that you’re just desperate to be on,” Root said. “The position I’m at in my career, it could be the last opportunity I get to go. So of course it’s something you’re desperate to do, desperate to hopefully make history over there and be part of something very special.
“But it’s hard to make a definite decision until we know what it looks like. Once that information comes through and we have a bit more clarity, hopefully we are in a position to do something special this year.”
The problems those organising the tour continue to face were illustrated on Tuesday, when an Australian government minister confirmed that plans to hold the fifth Test in Perth only five days after the previous match ends in Sydney would crumble if players and their entourage, like other visitors from New South Wales, are expected to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in Western Australia.
“There’s serious questions about whether there’ll be a Test match in Perth this summer,” Australia’s sports minister, Richard Colbeck, said. “If there’s no chance of coming here without prolonged quarantine, it just won’t occur.” Cricket Australia continues to say that all Tests will be played as scheduled.
Also on Tuesday the Sheffield Shield match between Queensland and Tasmania was postponed, and the visiting team flew home immediately, after four new cases were confirmed in Queensland, a state with a population in excess of five million.
With England’s players due to arrive in Australia in November, in time to quarantine in a resort on Queensland’s Gold Coast and prepare for the first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane starting on 8 December, there is increasing pressure on all those involved to confirm arrangements. But while other players had previously spoken of their concerns over the tour, and the possibility of their choosing not to go, this is the first time England’s captain has echoed them.
“I feel it’s so hard to make a definite decision until you know,” Root said. “That’s why it’s so important that we get all the information. I’m desperate to be part of an Ashes series, I always am, it’s that one series as an England player that you [most] want to be involved in and that will never change. I think it’s really important everyone makes a decision that they’re comfortable with. We just have to be patient, we just have to wait until we know what’s happening and then make a decision on the back of that.”
Despite the continued possibility that the tour, which as planned would involve five Tests in six weeks across five different states, might completely collapse, Root has tried to keep preparations as close to normal as possible. “You look at the last two years, nothing’s really been normal,” he said. “You just want to make the best of everything you can. From our point of view everything we’ve done has been about making sure we’re as ready as we can be, that we are organised and clear on what we need to do. As much as anything, we’ve tried to keep it as close to how you’d want to prepare for any tour, but in particular an Ashes tour of Australia.”
Root was speaking after being named men’s player of the year at the 52nd Cinch PCA Awards, the biggest awards ceremony in English cricket. The 30-year-old has scored 1,455 Test runs in 2021 at an average of 66.13, and returned to the top of the world rankings.
“I certainly feel I’m playing some of the best cricket I’ve played,” he said. “I feel like I’m playing quite nicely. I feel I’ve got good rhythm in the way that I’m moving and good confidence at the crease. More than anything you are desperate to keep it going, keep that hunger, keep that drive to make those big scores and contributions.”