NASSER HUSSAIN: It’s a bit rich the Aussies lecturing us on quarantining for the Ashes… England have played 18 Tests during the pandemic while Tim Paine’s men have had just four – and all at home!
- Decisions will soon need to be made on issues around quarantining at the Ashes
- England captain Joe Root and director of cricket Ashley Giles face challenges
- Australia Test captain Tim Paine did not sound entirely empathetic in response
Right now, it feels as if England’s Test players are getting a lot of flak, particularly from Australia, about their attitude to quarantining at the Ashes. And that doesn’t sit comfortably with me.
England have played 18 Test matches since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. That’s five more than anyone else — and 14 more than Australia, whose four Tests all came at home against India last winter.
I’m quite proud of the way in which England’s Test team have kept the show on the road in difficult circumstances, moving in and out of bubbles and spending time away from their families. It’s draining. Mental health has suffered.
Tim Paine has not been full of empathy for England players over the demands of quarantining
Captain Joe Root (R) and the England players will be minded to take a stance on the Ashes soon
So for people in Australia to start lecturing them, and telling them they should simply suck it up, is a bit rich.
When Tim Paine, Australia’s Test captain, spoke recently I didn’t hear much empathy from a fellow professional. Now others have jumped on the Ashes bandwagon, as if England are somehow trying to dodge an important series.
I get all the arguments. Yes, England’s Test players are paid handsomely. Yes, representing your country, particularly in an away Ashes, is the highest honour there is for a professional cricketer. Yes, some of the players have chosen to add to their own burden by taking part in overseas T20 tournaments such as the IPL.
I understand all that. But unless you’ve spent time in a bubble — and some of these guys have done it repeatedly — you don’t get to lecture other people on how they should behave.
As Sportsmail’s table shows, England have had more pandemic Test matches than anyone else
I’m going to have to spend six days in a hotel room in Dubai before the T20 World Cup later this month and I’m dreading it. But that’s not a fraction of what the England Test players have gone through these past 18 months.
Where I do see what Paine is saying is that grown-up decisions will need to be made at some point.
The Ashes look as if they’re going ahead, so at some point — probably over the next day or two — the players will need to take a stance. I don’t like the silence. Only a few players — Jos Buttler, Stuart Broad and Dan Lawrence — have really said what they think, but in general people have been afraid to break ranks.
As we saw when England left Pakistan in the lurch recently by pulling out of this month’s T20 tour, communication needs to be better.
What Joe Root needs now is as much certainty as possible if he’s going to try to become only the second England captain since Mike Gatting in 1986-87 to win in Australia.
England director of cricket Ashley Giles faces a delicate balancing act in the coming months
He’s spent too long of late trying to lead his country with one hand tied behind his back.
Some of it has been out of his control, because of Covid. But England have overthought their rest-and-rotation policy, and become too cute with their planning. What they need now is to pick the best team available and not fret if they then pick the same side for the next game.
And certainty will only come if he can have honest conversations with his players.
If I were captain, I’d need to be sure that anyone on that trip is 100 per cent committed. Fifty-fifty is nowhere near good enough on a tour like Australia, which can be bloody hard work at the best of times.
He’s already going to be without Jofra Archer and possibly Ben Stokes.
One of Root’s tasks will be to ensure that anyone taking part in trips is steadfastly committed
The least Root deserves now is for the players to make adult decisions — maybe tough decisions — and commit wholeheartedly to the trip.
Back in 2001-02, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I had to have honest conversations with my players about the tour of India that was coming up. Robert Croft and Andy Caddick pulled out and I respected that.
I also knew they would not have been much use to us in India if their minds weren’t fully on the job.
So it’s a delicate balancing act for Root and Ashley Giles, the director of cricket. They need to be considerate about the players’ mental health as they prepare to enter yet another bubble on one of the toughest tours of all. But they also know their only chance of winning in Australia is if everyone is on board.
That’s why I don’t like these easy judgments from the other side of the world. If the last 18 months have taught us anything, surely it’s the importance of empathy.
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