The fate of this summer’s Ashes series is in the balance, with England players set to meet this week with the England Cricket Board (ECB) and the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA).
The main issue on the agenda is whether families will be able to travel to Australia before or during the Ashes tour.
The ECB have consistently maintained that player health and safety is of paramount importance and players, many of whom will be away from home for up to four months, are concerned they might not see family at all in that time.
If that was the case, it’s entirely possible players will choose to withdraw from the Ashes, placing the five-Test series in serious jeopardy.
The player concerns stems from the approach taken by the esteemed Prime Minister of Australia, who recently announced a four-phase plan to open Australia up for international travellers.
As things stand, the ability of England family members to come to Australia can only become a possibility once 70 per cent of the Australian population over 16 has been fully vaccinated and the state where the people would be visiting has achieved the same rate.
The PM was talking up his belief Australia would achieve that before the New Year, but current modelling suggests that belief is very optimistic.
In any event, the bulk of the Ashes tour takes place well before Christmas, making it even more difficult for England family to accompany the players.
If Australia does not achieve the required vaccination rate, Cricket Australia would be forced to seek some sort of exemption for player family members, which would likely include a period of quarantine and possibly other tight restrictions, similar to those currently being imposed on NRL families.
This may prove unacceptable to some English players, forcing them to withdraw from the Ashes, potentially leaving that series in tatters.
There are some alternatives, depending on what the Morrison government allows.
The Ashes tour could still go ahead, but unless England are able to bring their best squad of fit players, what’s the point?
The tour could be pushed back to 2022, as has been suggested in some quarters, with the England Test squad staying on after another T20 World Cup.
That would mean asking South Africa to swap their three-Test tour to this year, but this seems unlikely because India is due to tour South Africa at the same time, later this year.
Bangladesh is scheduled to tour New Zealand and they could be approached to play some Tests.
Australia could also ask the Black Caps if they’d be willing to come across the ditch for a Test series prior to their matches against the Tigers.
Presumably, they would want something in return, so a rematch of the 2019-20 series could be an option, only this time we’d be playing on their turf.
Failing that, the Australian summer of cricket could well comprise lots of domestic cricket and a lone Test against Afghanistan in Hobart in November!
The Prime Minister and Cricket Australia declined to comment, mostly because they weren’t contacted and the author didn’t want to allow too many accurate facts to get in the way of a sensationalist story.