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ECB says player welfare ‘paramount’ while ensuring availability of England’s best options for packed Ashes schedule

London: The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is determined to find a way to ensure England’s best players are available for the Ashes in Australia in December.

In a joint statement with the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) on Friday, the governing bodies reiterated their desire for the five-Test series to be played at the highest possible standard. Meetings with Cricket Australia (CA) are set to occur in the coming weeks.

The Australian government has limited the number of overseas arrivals during the pandemic, with thousands of its citizens unable to return and COVID-19 cases surging in the country’s largest cities amid a slow rollout of the vaccination programme.

England’s Test squad, and in particular the players who feature in all formats, could go up to four months without seeing family due to the Ashes taking place three weeks after the Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman finishes in November.

“This week, several meetings have been held between the England men’s players, ECB and Team England Player Partnership to discuss provisional plans for the tour of Australia later in the year,” the joint statement said.

“All parties are collaborating and will continue to work together to understand protocols around bubble environments, family provision and quarantine rules that will be in place for the tour during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“With player and management’s welfare paramount, the ECB will discuss planning and operational requirements with Cricket Australia in the coming weeks and how they seek to implement their policies in partnership with state and federal governments.

“All stakeholders are committed to putting player and staff welfare as the main priority and finding the right solutions that enable the England team to compete with the best players and at the highest possible standard that the Ashes series deserves.”

Former Ashes winning-captain Michael Vaughan said last week he would be amazed if England was at full strength unless travel exemption was given for the families of the touring party.

A potential alternative would be to base the families in New Zealand, where a travel corridor into Australia was established, although this month that was suspended.

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