As a result of bubble fatigue and the prospect of a lengthy winter, a number of England’s all-format players have withdrawn from this year’s IPL.
Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, and Dawid Malan have all announced their retirements, joining Jos Buttler. Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes had already withdrawn.
Aiden Markram will take Malan’s spot at Punjab Kings for the remainder of the season. Sherfane Rutherford has assumed Bairstow’s place in Sunrisers Hyderabad in the meantime.
Bairstow (Sunrisers), Woakes (Delhi Capitals), Malan (Rajasthan Royals), and Buttler (Rajasthan Royals) have all been named in England’s T20 World Cup squad and could be included in the Ashes tour group as well. As a result, they will be gone from home for more than four months, including time spent in quarantine as they travel from country to country. Buttler and Woakes are both fathers of young children, with Buttler having recently welcomed his second child into the world.
In recent days, it has been revealed that all players travelling to the IPL (which begins on September 19) would be subjected to a six-day quarantine. This could have been a contributing factor in the Manchester Test being cancelled.
The England players still scheduled to play in the IPL are Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, George Garton, Eoin Morgan, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Liam Livingstone, and Jason Roy. Some people are anticipated to go to the UAE on a commercial flight today (Saturday). One or two others might not be able to go until after the T20 Finals (on September 18). Only Sam Curran and Moeen are expected to be included in the Ashes travelling party from that bunch, though it would be no surprise if Moeen, a father of two young children, opted out.
After the events at Emirates Old Trafford, the future of that trip appears to be more shaky than ever. A large number of senior players are uneasy about the thought of a two-week quarantine at the start of the tour, and much more so about putting their families through the same ordeal. As a result, a number of high-profile departures appear to be a foregone conclusion.
On Friday, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison told Sky Sports on the Ashes tour: “Now that the Test series has come to a close early, it becomes our top focus for the players to work through. Because it’s looming large on the horizon, it’s a conversation that’s now taking centre stage.”
While the ECB is adamant that the tour will go place, the possibility of a second-string England team competing in the Ashes is a distinct possibility. It remains to be seen whether this is regarded to jeopardise the events’ integrity.
The current uncertainty surrounding travel to Australia is a critical concern for England’s players. There has been talk of allowing them to serve a reasonably light quarantine – possibly in a Gold Coast resort hotel with access to golf courses – but there are no certainties. More significantly, there’s no certainty that similar benefits will be extended to travelling family members. As the tour party travels between states, there is also the possibility of additional quarantine procedures.
“We should always keep in mind our goal of going to Australia with the greatest team possible,” Harrison added. “It’s an illustrious Test series to be a part of, and every England player wants to be a part of it.
“I completely appreciate the players’ viewpoint on the presence of families and the circumstances under which they are present. I also don’t believe the manner in which the argument has been framed is unreasonable.
“It’s a discussion we’re having with Cricket Australia and the Australian government, all in the hopes of finding the proper answer so that everyone feels comfortable travelling.”
The power of modern players, and their resistance to be cajoled into prolonged tournaments, is highlighted by happenings at Emirates Old Trafford. Even the Indian Premier League and the Ashes are not immune to such demands.