The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have stated athlete welfare will not be compromised as uncertainty looms over their upcoming winter tours, despite the challenges of touring in a Covid-19 world.
England’s men are expected to face Sri Lanka at the start of January for two Tests followed by a tour of India. However the former has seen its series with Bangladesh cancelled after a disagreement on quarantine rules between the two governing bodies.
Sri Lanka currently requires all arrivals to observe a strict 14 day isolation, while India currently has the highest number of coronavirus cases worldwide, leaving questions over the safety of England's involvement in the scheduled tours.
After a summer which saw the mens side take on the West Indies, Ireland, Pakistan and Australia, and the England women compete in Twenty20s against West Indies women, the ECB are keen to pay forward the generosity of touring.
However, in a briefing on Monday, chief executive Tom Harrison stated talks with respective boards will have cricketers at the forefront of any agreements. They are currently involved in talks with Sri Lanka Cricket and the BCCI, along with Cricket South Africa, who expect to host the men for the ODI tour next month, and New Zealand Cricket who will host the women for matches at the start of 2021.
One key stumbling block aside from the safety concerns around travel, venues and accommodation will be the required quarantine period, varying between each country. Sri Lanka’s 14-day ruling currently has no exemption for elite athletes, although this may change given the benefits to the economy that an England tour will bring to the country.
“What what is very clear is that the challenges are very, very different depending on who you're talking to with respect to relationships between government and the board being in a very different state in every case,” said Harrison. “And not everyone enjoys the very collaborative relationship that we've had with government over this year in order to secure for example waivers for visas for elite sports people coming into this country."
“We will not sign off plans that we are not comfortable with in terms of that number one priority which is the health and well being of our players and staff going on those tours," he added.
Author: Ross Plank