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Ashes still in limbo between Australia and England

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) board is set to meet later this week on whether the Winter Ashes can take place. Several prominent players had refused to go through the stringent COVID-19 protocol in Australia.

In a statement, the ECB said it was in discussion with England’s men’s players and management, some of whom would be leaving for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to participate in this month’s T20 World Cup.

The statement also noted that the board has had frequent discussions with Cricket Australia and it has been positive. So it also aroused public suspicion that the conditions put in place would enable the selection of this series. “Since the weekend, we have been in conversation with the men’s players and management in England to provide them with new information about the proposed arrangements for this winter’s Ashes tour,” the statement read.

“We are in regular and positive discussions with Cricket Australia on these arrangements as the picture continues to change,” the ECB said. Along with health and well being, our focus is to ensure that this tour goes ahead with its best performance for the players and the management. We’ll continue to talk to our players this week to share new information and get feedback.

The ECB board will meet at the end of this week to decide whether the venue conditions are sufficient for the tour to go ahead and the selection of the series based on these conditions.

Australia’s government outlined plans in November to ease entry and quarantine restrictions for fully vaccinated citizens, but the provision is not expected to be expanded to foreign travelers until a later date.

Last week, England captain Joe Root expressed his doubts about the series, saying he was looking forward to the tour going ahead, but he was yet to commit to leading the side.

Writing on Instagram ahead of the white-ball team’s departure for the UAE, the team’s assistant coach Paul Collingwood described the dilemma faced by many players, especially those from families. He wrote, “I love my job and I’m so excited for the winter season ahead but it’s not easy saying goodbye to your daughters for potentially three months no matter how strong you are. We all make sacrifices in life. Looking forward to meeting with the team tomorrow as I know we will try to help each other like a family.

In response, Cricket Australia itself issued a statement, reiterating the regular and positive discussions over the past six months, stressing that the health and well-being of both parties remains a priority. We especially thank our government partners for their support in this regard. We are also excited by rising vaccination rates and an evolving approach to the pandemic in Australia.