A meeting has been scheduled for Friday at which England’s Test players will finally be briefed about detailed plans for this winter’s Ashes tour, giving them the weekend to mull over their participation before the selectors convene next week to decide on the travelling party.
Players have spent weeks pleading, often in public, for the information they require to make an informed decision about whether they want to travel to Australia, and an end to uncertainty over the conditions they can expect to live under during the Ashes series. The information they receive on Friday will be as detailed as possible but will not be definitive, with conditions on the ground continuing to change.
The problems facing cricketers in Australia were illustrated by the Australia and New South Wales spinner Nathan Lyon, who on the Road to the Ashes podcast released on Wednesday described his own preparations for the first Ashes Test, which is due to start at the Gabba in Brisbane on 8 December.
“It changes daily but as of today we’ve been told that New South Wales [cricket team] is heading down to Adelaide on Monday, and we’ve got 14 days’ hard quarantine in a hotel,” Lyon said, “then we’re looking to squeeze in about four Sheffield Shield games and five one-day games across Adelaide, Tasmania and Perth leading into the Ashes.”
At the moment New South Wales is suffering Australia’s most serious Covid outbreak – the state’s seven-day average of 929 daily new cases is more than half Australia’s national total – leading other states to ban travel between them either completely, or without a period in isolation.
Under current regulations it would be impossible for England to play the fourth Test as scheduled in Sydney, capital of New South Wales, and the fifth in Perth, Western Australia without extending the tour by a fortnight to allow players who will already have quarantined on arrival in the country to do so once again.
Lyon was asked if he could understand the hesitancy some England players appear to be feeling about the tour. “I can probably understand it but I think as professional athletes and cricketers we’re so lucky in what we do,” he said. “I think it really comes upon us to give back to the game that has given us so much.
“So I wouldn’t have a doubt in coming out if it was myself, and especially for an Ashes series – they’re the top series that can make someone’s career. [Bubbles] are just taking away your freedom. It can wear you down I guess but it’s a small price to pay in my eyes. It’s probably a selfish opinion – I’m not at the IPL, I’ve been home for the last eight months or so – but I’m itching to get out there.”