England senior players want ECB to issue ultimatum to Cricket Australia over Ashes tour

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The 2021/22 Ashes series is set to start in December - PA
The 2021/22 Ashes series is set to start in December - PA

England’s senior cricketers are understood to want the ECB to issue an ultimatum to Australia’s board and effectively take on their government by saying that England will not contest the Ashes this winter if their players cannot take their families.

“Not too much can be said at the moment because things can change so quickly,” said a Professional Cricketers Association spokesperson on behalf of the England players, but it seems certain they will have to change if England are to tour Australia with their first-choice squad.

Cricket Australia are due to update the ECB in the next week about the protocols the Australian government will want in place for the next Ashes. England’s senior players want CA to know in advance their position about refusing to tour without their families, and for the ECB chief executive Tom Harrison to support them.

Otherwise, if this winter’s Ashes tour goes ahead under current protocols, the England players will be expected to turn back the clock more than half a century, to the 1960s, the last time they toured Australia without their wives and families. Even then an exception would usually be made for the England captain.

In addition, England’s multi-format players would be expected to spend as much time away from their families this winter as their predecessors before jet travel. Those involved would be scheduled to leave England at the end of September, tour Bangladesh for a 50-over and 20-over series, proceed to Pakistan for two T20 internationals, then participate in the T20 World Cup in the UAE until mid-November, before flying to Australia and spending a fortnight in quarantine before the first Test in the second week of December. The Ashes series is due to end in late January, immediately followed by a white-ball series and Test series in the West Indies.

Jos Buttler has conceded that family support is vital for the players’ morale - GETTY IMAGES
Jos Buttler has conceded that family support is vital for the players’ morale - GETTY IMAGES

As if this winter’s itinerary was not demanding enough, the England players are now entering a closed environment before their five-Test series against India starts on Wednesday. It continues until mid-September, leaving them with a fortnight of family life before February as protocols stand.

Meanwhile the England players have only to look at the Indian players who have been enjoying a vacation with their families in Britain.

The Test specialists in England’s squad are due to arrive in Australia a fortnight ahead of the multi-format players like Joe Buttler and Ben Stokes, to acclimatise in Brisbane. Once the whole squad has been released from quarantine the plan is for them to play two intra-squad games, using the combined total of approximately 25 players. The ECB concluded after the last Ashes tour there was little point in practising against the teams of 19- and 20-year-olds assembled by Cricket Australia.

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