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Jos Buttler has called on England to adopt a “siege mentality” during this winter’s Ashes series, as he confirmed he will not tour Australia if Covid restrictions mean he would have to go months without seeing his young family.
England’s players are still waiting to find out more details about the potential quarantine requirements and living arrangements proposed by Cricket Australia for the series, which is due to begin on December 8.
The suggested restrictions for players and their families are understood to be less stringent than the ECB first feared, but there remains concern over the prospect of snap lockdowns and ever-changing state rules. On Tuesday, a Sheffield Shield match between Queensland and Tasmania was called off shortly before the scheduled start of play when the latter side opted to fly home after just four coronavirus cases were identified in Brisbane.
In an interview with the Mail, ECB chairman Ian Watmore admitted he expects uncertainty over the tour to continue right up until the moment the first players fly Down Under in early November and with the series not due to end until January 18, Buttler is aware of the threat of what remains an evolving situation.
“Hopefully in the next few days there’ll be more information,” Buttler said. “But I think it would be naive not to say that in the times we’re living in that could potentially be changeable as well.
“You want to go there with as many assurances as possible but it’d be naive not to think that things can change. You’re trying to get as much information as you can.”
Buttler’s circumstances are particularly complicated following the recent birth of his second child, for which he missed this summer’s fourth Test against India.
As one of a number of multi-format players who fly to the Middle East next week ahead of the T20 World Cup, he faces the prospect of spending as long as four months away from home and the 31-year-old says doing that long a stint on the road without his wife, Louise, and children is not an option.
“Definelty for myself, if I had to do a World Cup and an Ashes, five months without seeing my family, I wouldn’t be comfortable doing that,” he added.
While some form of exemptions are expected to be granted for players’ families, England fans will not be able to travel, meaning Buttler and his teammates face the prospect of an even more hostile atmosphere than usual, a factor he says they must turn to their advantage.
“The Barmy Army are such an incredible group of supporters and Australia is always one that sticks in my mind of them being very visible at the ground,” he said. “Whether it’s good or bad news on the field, their support is obviously amazing. They’ll be a huge miss. I’ve not been part of an Ashes tour but it’s quite obvious that it’s the most challenging tour as an England team and a player so you want all the support you can get.
“If that’s the scenario, it is without English fans, then you have to take that kind of siege mentality and use that as a positive to get the best performance.”
England Test captain Joe Root - who also has two young children - earlier this week refused to commit entirely to touring as he awaits further information about the requirements, but indicated that his desperation to win back the Urn and fill one of the few gaps on his CV by scoring a century in Australia were providing extra motivation.
Buttler was dropped from the Test side in late 2016 and not recalled until the home summer 18 months later, meaning he missed the 2017/18 tour to Australia and, at 31, this may yet prove the wicketkeeper’s final chance to play in an Ashes series away from home.
“Of course, my ambition is to get the most out of my career and play at the highest level I can for as long as possible,” Buttler said, speaking at an event at Sixes Cricket Club, where he was unveiled as the official ambassador of Booking.com‘s sponsorship of the ICC T20 World Cup.
“It’s something I’ve not experienced, I haven’t been on an Ashes tour to Australia and it’s certainly something as an England player you want to be a part of.
“Like we say though, there’s so much at the minute around it that you’ve got to get that right before your can focus on the rest of it.”
Booking.com is the official accommodation booking partner of the ICC T20 World Cup, which takes place from 17 October – 14 November.