England hold crisis talks with Cricket Australia as new Omicron Covid variant threatens to disrupt this winter’s Ashes series due to changes in travel rules – and fifth Test in Perth now only has ’50/50′ prospect of going ahead
- The Omicron variant is causing havoc having emerged as a new strain of Covid
- Travel plans have been affected and there is concern over the Ashes series
- England have held crisis talks with Cricket Australia about their concerns
- Families of the players may find it harder to move around within Australia
- The Perth Test, set for January 14, has a ’50/50′ chance of going ahead
England were in crisis talks with Cricket Australia on Saturday night as fears grew that the new Covid variant would disrupt the Ashes.
Ashley Giles, England’s managing director, admitted to concerns within the camp that the Omicron variant could affect players families entering Australia or cause issues moving around various states of a country with a hard-line approach to Covid.
‘It’s very early days but we are starting that conversation,’ said Giles from England’s hotel in Brisbane on Saturday.
‘There are going to be changes to border controls in terms of our families being allowed to travel and we clearly hope that’s not going to affect us. But we are in the hands of national and local governments.’
Joe Root’s England side were already concerned about Covid protocols before this variant
Australia’s draconian response to Covid caused initial concerns about the viability of this year’s Ashes, with England’s players raising concerns about both them and their families having to endure 14 days hard quarantine in Queensland at the start of the tour.
Now various Australian states have started to bring in new restrictions, with two passengers arriving in Sydney on Saturday night from Qatar testing positive for the variant.
‘We always knew things could change,’ admitted Giles. ‘I guess we hoped things would change positively as we went through the series but, as we’ve been aware over the last two years with variants, things can also change negatively.
Ben Stokes and Co may have to deal with changes to venues and the situation is evolving
England are preparing for a huge challenge against Australia away from home
‘Can we prepare for everything? It’s not really possible actually because of the big moving parts even around quarantine times and rules around different states.
‘We will do everything we can to make sure the families are accommodated and of course that the players are happy.’
An England spokesperson said it was ‘too early to say’ whether any of the Ashes venues could change but, as Sportsmail first reported, the chances of the final Test going ahead as planned at Perth in Western Australia, which has a particularly strict Covid policy, are increasingly slim.
The Western Australia Cricket Association chief executive Christina Matthews described the chances of the Perth Test going ahead as ’50/50′.
‘I’d probably say at the moment I’m 50/50,’ she told ABC Radio. ‘I’d gone as high as 97 per cent but I’ve gone back to 50/50. We’ll wait and see.’
The Western Australia state government would need to relax some restrictions for the Test to go ahead in Perth.
‘It’s a matter of whether cricket can meet those demands or not,’ Matthews said.
‘One of the difficulties for cricket is just the high level of technology that’s needed around the broadcast and the number of people that are needed around the broadcast compared to an AFL (Australian Football League) broadcast.
Some Australian states have already started to bring in new draconian restrictions
‘It’s one thing getting the players in (but) it’s another thing getting the people who have to broadcast.’
The match in January now looks likely to be switched to a day-night affair and a second game in Melbourne, which is currently due to stage just the Boxing Day Test.
The England players who played in the Twenty20 World Cup and have been in quarantine for the last two weeks will today join up with the rest of the squad in Brisbane ahead of their final intra-squad warm-up along with the Lions on Monday.
The first Test is at the Gabba on December 8.