England and Australia in Ashes stand-off as Joe Root’s side demand more Covid guarantees which hosts refuse to give… as ECB say nothing will be held against visitors if they opt out
- England players were briefed on conditions for 11-week Ashes tour on Sunday
- A video conference call took place with the ECB hierarchy and Cricket Australia
- An England Lions squad will also be selected if ECB commit to five-match series
- Last week, England captain Root himself stopped short of committing to series
England’s players demanded greater clarity on their proposed Ashes tour conditions on Monday as the ECB warned Cricket Australia it is not guaranteed that Test cricket’s premier series will go ahead this winter.
Sportsmail understands that Cricket Australia’s video presentation of the tour plans on Sunday night left the players with questions unanswered on the exact nature of the ‘softer’ quarantines their families might receive and concerned at what would happen in the event of a lockdown.
As shown by India’s late withdrawal from the fifth Test against England at Old Trafford last month, players are becoming increasingly concerned about being trapped abroad in the case of a Covid outbreak.
The ECB will decide later this week whether they can fulfil their Ashes obligations this winter
Players and the ECB hierarchy including Tom Harrison were involved in a video call on Monday
It had been hoped that the weekend address with the players would represent the chance for an imminent decision to be made on individual availability.
However, the ECB spelled out in a statement that the current position threatened to derail the 11-week trip, with failure to provide a travel exemption to return home should Australia close its state and national borders – due to reopen next month – a sticking point.
‘We remain in regular and positive dialogue with Cricket Australia over these arrangements as the picture is constantly evolving,’ it read.
‘With health and wellbeing at the forefront, our focus is to ensure the tour can go ahead with conditions for players and management to perform at their best.
Cricket Australia informed them if the conditions they and their families would be asked to abide by on the 11-week tour
‘We will continue talking to our players this week to share the latest information and seek feedback.
‘Later this week, the ECB board will meet to decide whether the conditions in place are sufficient for the tour to go ahead and enable the selection of a squad befitting a series of this significance.’
It appeared to be a clear message to their rival governing body to push the Australian government harder to secure a right to international passage.
ECB chiefs Ashley Giles (left) and Tom Harrison (right) says nothing will be held against players
It is something Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s regime, apparently concerned about providing the England cricket team with special dispensation at a time when thousands of its own citizens remain stuck abroad, do not want to entertain.
The timing of these personal decisions is also causing angst among the England group.
England director of cricket Ashley Giles, who addressed them along with the ECB’s chief executive Tom Harrison on Sunday, has repeatedly made clear that nothing will be held against those who choose not to tour.
However, it is not lost on the playing squad that central contracts, supposed to be announced last week, are yet to be finalised.
A squad of around 30 players will be selected if the ECB state the tour will go ahead
The players remain fearful that despite the promises, such a decision might alter the terms they are offered. It would arguably alter a player’s decision if they knew how they would be financially rewarded.
The situation is not helped by the fact that those who might have expected full contracts in the past have not received them — one such example being Moeen Ali two years ago.
It has been made clear that families arriving with players involved in multiple formats of the game in late November will have a less restrictive quarantine, as they will be travelling from the ICC’s Twenty20 World Cup bubble in the UAE – but the players have asked for more specific details on what that means.
England had hoped to select a tour party – of up to 30, including a Lions group – by the end of this week before the latest twist in the tale.
Stuart Broad has already stated categorically that he will travel to Australia if he is selected
But Jos Buttler (front) and Root (back) have stopped short of fully committing to the tour
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