England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison said on Thursday he was “confident” this year’s Ashes tour of Australia would proceed as planned despite possible coronavirus travel restrictions.
England players have expressed concerns that their families may be unable to join them on the five-Test tour because of strict Australian border controls, as well as the prospect of another restrictive spell in a secure bubble.
And with individual states able to impose their own restrictions, there are fears England could find themselves caught up in the kind of scenario where South Australia forced athletes returning from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to complete an additional 14-day home quarantine even when they have already quarantined in Sydney.
“We are working very closely with Cricket Australia and I had my latest conversation with my counterpart at CA yesterday, we are speaking every few days on this matter,” Harrison told reporters as the second Test between England and India got under way at Lord’s.
“All the right conversations are happening at government level in Australia, and we will be using our own diplomatic channels in the UK to ensure that the view of the players and the ECB [is heard].”
Harrison added: “This is not players asking for anything unreasonable, these are very reasonable requests that we are asking the Australian government to give some leniency, frankly.
“It’s going to be important for us to ensure that we can give comfort to players that their families are going to be able to be in Australia and that those conditions in which they are quarantined will be reasonable, enabling the players to be at their best in that Test series.
“It’s a conversation that’s going to take place over the next few weeks but I am very confident we will get to a place where we can fulfil our obligations to tour.”
Calls to postponed the Ashes by a year are likely to fall on deaf ears, given the knock-on effects it would cause both England and Australia with their remaining fixture during the ongoing 2021-23 World Test Championship cycle.
Harrison made it clear the ECB were still operating on the basis the 2021-22 Ashes would go ahead as scheduled.
“The Ashes is so important to global cricket, much like an England-India series,” he said. “We never want to compromise the integrity of the series for any reason, Cricket Australia understand this, just as well as we do.
“The issue at the moment is the process that we need to go through to get the assurances that we need to be comfortable, that our players can get on the plane to Australia and feel confident that they can be at their best and they can perform at their best, without having to cope with the mental weight of being massively concerned about the conditions.
“We [the ECB and CA] are doing it together,” he added. “This is not an adversarial conversation, it’s one which we’re doing together.”
©️ Agence France-Presse