A decision is set to be made on this winter's Ashes series down under in the coming two weeks, as per reports in The Times. With the ECB clearly desperate for the tour to go ahead, there are growing concerns amongst some players over the potential COVID-19 restrictions in place in Australia come December, with conditions currently beset by lockdowns and quarantine regulations.
The players, upon arrival, will have to undergo fourteen days of quarantine on the Gold Coast, with short periods of respite for training permitted. Their families will be allowed to join them, but given term times and the young children that many of the players have, quarantine rules may prevent them from reaching Australia at all.
All roads seem to be leading to a more public dispute between the board and the players, who will be understandably reluctant to return to full lockdown after months spent in the relative freedom of the UK. There is a great reluctance at administrative level to postpone the tour to the 2022/23 winter, again understandable given the scheduling and financial nightmare that would no doubt ensue.
The likeliest outcome is that England field a much-weakened squad, with several senior players dropping out. Many feel uneasy about the prospect of undermining cricket's most historic series, and pressure from the public and pundits could yet prove too much of a weight to bear for the ECB after a year in which their timetabling and financial decisions have already come under considerable fire.