Jos Buttler, having pulled out of the IPL, expresses Ashes doubts

Jos Buttler has expressed the trials of being a professional cricketer within the bio-secure environments of COVID-19, pulling out of the resumption of the IPL and now suggesting his participation in the Ashes is in doubt. Speaking to The Sunday Times, Buttler spoke about the sacrifices he has made over the past eighteen months at the expense of his young family.

Expecting a second child in September, Buttler could miss the back end of England’s series with India, and has become the first England player to declare himself unavailable for T20’s marquee competition. He has now said ‘you have to be open to’ saying no to the Ashes, very much understandable given the series and T20 World Cup potentially seeing him away from home for up to four months.

Buttler’s eloquent description of his own familial situation and those of thousands of Australian citizens unable to get back home only serves to cloud the Ashes under further doubt. The wicketkeeper is not the only England player with a young family, and after Ben Stokes pulled out of the India series earlier this month even the strongest of characters will have to think twice about yet more time spent effectively in quarantine.

It is, of course, in the hands of the Australian government to maintain the integrity of this winter’s series down under. It has the near-impossible task of accommodating England’s cricketers whilst placating an equally self-sacrificing Australian population. It seems given the scheduling and financial nightmare that would ensue otherwise, the Ashes will go ahead in some capacity.

But as England’s leading cricketers continue to rightly prioritise themselves and their families after the most intense eighteen months of their lives, the game’s biggest series will be undermined. Living within its bubble of the utmost scrutiny, harshest of criticism and most brutal of pressure, combined with families growing up on the other side of the world, it is difficult to rationalise even now such an enormous sacrifice on the part of the players.