'Premature': Cricket Australia brushes off Perth Ashes concerns

·4-min read
Pictured right, WA premier Mark McGowan, with cricketers Joe Root and Tim Paine on the left.
WA's tough Covid-19 protocols under premier Mark McGowan raise questions around the fifth Ashes Test in Perth. Pic: Getty

Cricket Australia (CA) insists it will do "absolutely everything" it can to ensure the fifth Ashes Test goes ahead in Perth as planned, despite concerns over Western Australia's Covid-19 restrictions.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) last week gave the green light for the $200 million series to go ahead, but warned that it would only do so if several "critical conditions" were met.

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Question marks over the iconic series have centred around player welfare, what quarantine restrictions and Covid-19 bubbles will look like for the England players and whether their families will be able to travel with them in Australia.

A key part of the schedule for CA is bringing the series to a close in Perth for the fifth and final Test, which is looming as a bigger challenge than convincing England to commit to the tour in the first place.

CA chief executive Nick Hockley spoke with Joe Root's side last week, soothing their various concerns to a point where not a single player opted out of the 17-man squad that England has named for the iconic contest.

But questions about the schedule remain unresolved, especially amid a backdrop of Root and teammates flagging concerns about restrictions being ramped up during the five-Test series.

The fact that Australia and England are quarantining in south-east Queensland after the Twenty20 World Cup underlines CA's commitment to begin the series in Brisbane on December 8.

Ensuing travel to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney should be relatively straightforward but Western Australia's border rules remain a hurdle that CA is still trying to clear.

Pictured here, Joe Root and Tim Paine pose together with the Ashes trophy.
England have stressed that several conditions will have to be met for the upcoming Ashes series to go ahead as planned. Pic: Getty

Finding common ground between Root's list of demands and those of WA Premier Mark McGowan will likely be incredibly difficult given the teams travel to Perth after the fourth Test in Sydney.

"They'll have to comply with the rules that are put in place," McGowan said, when asked about talks with CA.

"I'll continue to talk to the chief health officer about that but the rules are there for a reason, they keep us safe.

"NSW is riddled with COVID... we have to have pretty strong rules in place to protect our state and that will continue."

The SCG, MCG and Manuka Oval loom as obvious back-up options, should CA be unable to find a solution that allows Optus Stadium to host the series finale on January 14-18.

CA determined for Ashes series to finish in Perth

Hockley said on Monday it was "premature" to speculate about contingency plans.

"It's still three months away," the CA chief said.

"Our first priority is doing absolutely everything we can to get across to Perth... we'd desperately like to play the fifth Test in Perth and it's absolutely our intention to do so.

"We're working through the detail of what that might look like, as we speak.

"We'll be prioritising that over the weeks ahead, we'll be doing everything we can to make that happen."

Seen here, Nick Hockley during his unveiling as Cricket Australia CEO.
Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley says they will do everything they can to ensure the Ashes series finishes in Perth in 2022. Pic: Getty

Hockley noted he was buoyed by several factors, adding he couldn't speak more "highly for the support we're getting (from state governments) around the country".

The Australia and England squads will have quarantine exemptions to train after arriving in Queensland, while trips to the beach, golf course and restaurants will be available after the initial 14-day period.

The recent abandonment of an England-India Test, because of COVID-19 cases among India's support staff, highlight the risks involved with such freedoms.

"Our protocols are designed to really create that balance between making sure we're keeping everyone safe and protecting the tour," Hockley said.

"There are now an increasing number of reports and studies around the effects of prolonged periods in biosecure or managed environments."

with AAP

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