Comments by Test captain Tim Paine on his SEN radio show last Friday made for some awkward diplomacy.
After listening to a clip of his England counterpart, Joe Root, say he was “desperate” to tour but still uncertain whether he would, Paine said the Ashes would take place whether Root came or not.
“They all want to come, there’s no doubt about it. They’re trying to get themselves the best possible conditions they can, but at the end of the day, we all are,” Paine said on his SEN radio show.
“It will be worked out as we’ve said many times above us, and then they’ll make a decision whether or not they’ll get on that plane. There will be a squad of England players coming here for the first Test on December 8th.”
Despite being pilloried by former England players and sections of its media, no one in Australian cricket spoken to by the Herald and The Age on Tuesday disputed what Paine said. However, some felt it would have been more comfortable if he’d become a radio host after retirement.
The ECB put out a statement on Monday which can only be described as posturing.
The last paragraph said: “Later this week the ECB Board will meet to decide whether the conditions in place are sufficient for the tour to go ahead and enable the selection of a squad befitting a series of this significance.”
Multiple cricket sources have told the Herald and The Age that negotiations between Cricket Australia and the ECB are actually going well and a final agreement may be only days away.
As for the ECB suddenly becoming the arbiter of selection quality “befitting a series of this significance”, that is nonsense dressed up as a threat to try and garner the best possible conditions for their players.
Cricket Australia is in furious agreement. They want the same for their own players.
Australia was condemned for withdrawing from a South Africa tour earlier this year and retains a damaged international reputation as a result, but the decision was made on medical advice.
Unlike the public utterings currently coming from England, the players wanted to tour and the postponement cost Australia the chance of contesting the inaugural World Test Championship.
Australia took an under-strength team to the West Indies and Bangladesh earlier this year and lost both Twenty20 series 4-1 while winning a one-day series 2-1. No one is suggesting that somehow those results don’t count because of the quality of the players.
England had no qualms about claiming a 5-1 series victory during the 1978-79 tour after Australia’s entire team and more defected to World Series Cricket.
During the eleven Ashes series in Australia since, England have won just two and Australia nine, with 1986-87’s 2-1 English triumph coming after Australia was gutted by South African rebel tours.
In all, Australia have won 34 Tests during those series and England nine. The last two series produced a 9-0 scoreline in Australia’s favour, so it’s unlikely to matter who England pick. It would be a shame if Root did not tour, but the Ashes will go on.
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