England captain Joe Root says he is “desperate” to play in the Ashes but cannot yet commit to tour Australia due to uncertainty over coronavirus protocols.
Players and team management have yet to learn the exact conditions under which the five-Test series will take place, with those who have young families particularly concerned about the potentially stringent rules.
Talks between the England and Wales Cricket Board and their counterparts at Cricket Australia are ongoing and it is hoped a specific set of plans could be in place ahead of a squad announcement next week.
Root, who has two young children, refused to say if he would be available to lead England’s bid to regain the Ashes in a series scheduled to start in Brisbane on December 8. “I feel it’s so hard to make a definite decision until you know,” Root said yesterday.
“It’s a little bit frustrating but it’s where we are at. “From a player’s point of view we just want to know what the position is and then we can make decisions.”
The 30-year-old, named the Professional Cricketers’ Association men’s player of the year, added: “I’m desperate to be part of an Ashes series. I always am. It’s that one series as an England player that you want to be involved in and that will never change.
“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.”
Although the fifth Test is scheduled to take place in Perth, it could be moved to another venue given the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Western Australia.
And the emergence of four new coronavirus cases in Queensland, the venue for the Ashes opener, led to the postponement of a first-class Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania at just an hour’s notice yesterday. Such a move will do little to allay the concerns of England players who have doubts about touring.
Root said: “I think it’s really important everyone makes a decision that they’re comfortable with. There’s so many different factors that fall into it and hopefully we’re in a position where it’s not an issue.”
Root has so far enjoyed a memorable 2021, scoring 1,455 runs at an average of 66.13 in 12 Tests, with two double hundreds and four centuries but he is yet to score a Test century in Australia. Reminded of his lack of a Test ton in Australia, he replied: “I’m very aware of that and it’s something that I desperately want to put right.”
Meanwhile Root hailed Moeen Ali as a role model and said he would be a huge loss to the Test side after the all-rounder announced his decision to quit the longest format of the game on Monday.
“There are a number of things I’ll look back on when I’m finished as captain, that I could look back on with regret that I could have done slightly differently,” Root told reporters. The one thing I will say is when Mo has played, he’s been brilliant. You look at the amount of games he has affected, the amount of special moments he has had on a cricket field in the Test match format has been exceptional.”
Root said Moeen, who intends to specialise in white-ball cricket, had not been appreciated enough outside of the dressing room and added he would be a “huge loss” to the Test side.
“He’s a great personality to have in and around the dressing room, and he’s a great brain for younger players to learn from and to feed off,” Root said.
Perth Ashes Test in doubt due to Covid-19 curbs: minister
Perth may not be able to hold an Ashes test over Australia’s home summer due to Covid-19 restrictions, sports minister Richard Colbeck said yesterday.
Perth is scheduled to host the fifth and final test from January 14 but Colbeck said the Western Australia (WA) capital might have to miss out because of the state’s quarantine requirements.
Colbeck told Perth radio station 6PR players would not want to quarantine for 14 days in Western Australia as would be required if they played the preceding fourth Test as scheduled in Sydney.
“We’ve had to do a lot of work to organise quarantine arrangements for cricketers coming into Australia,” Colbeck said.
“There’s serious questions about whether there’ll be a Test match in Perth this summer. If there’s no chance of coming here without prolonged quarantine, it just won’t occur.”
The Ashes starts in Brisbane on December 8, followed by tests in Adelaide (December 16), Melbourne (December 26) and Sydney (January 5). Cricket Australia (CA) said it was planning for all tests as scheduled.
England players have threatened to pull out of the series if forced to adhere to Australia’s strict quarantine regime and have sought assurances that their families will be able to travel to Australia and tour with them.
Australia’s Covid-19 situation has thrown the schedule into doubt, with Covid-free Western Australia loath to open its borders while other states battle outbreaks.
Australia’s federal government released a vague plan in July to start easing quarantine restrictions and inter-state travel curbs once 70% of adults are vaccinated, likely by the end of October according to official projections. But WA and Queensland, of which Brisbane is the capital, have said they may keep borders shut for longer to avoid the risk of their health systems being overwhelmed by Covid outbreaks.
WA Cricket boss Christina Matthews said the sport’s state governing body had asked CA to move the Perth match forward in the schedule to avoid the quarantine snag.
“We know it is under real threat,” Matthews told The West Australian newspaper.
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