England will only play Ashes series if best players in squad

England will only travel to Australia for the Ashes series across December and January if its leading players are in the squad.

That was the message from the England and Wales Cricket Board on Monday, with the governing body saying it will announce this week if the tour will go ahead amid concerns about restrictions in place in Australia due to the pandemic.

An ECB statement said there has been “regular and positive dialogue” with Cricket Australia about arrangements for Ashes series, one of the biggest occasions in cricket.

However England's players are concerned about the conditions they will have to live in after arriving in Australia, such as the quarantine arrangements and whether family members can travel.

The ECB said the priority was to ensure the tour can take place “with conditions for players and management to perform at their best.”

“We will continue talking to our players this week to share the latest information and seek feedback,” the ECB said.

Tellingly, the governing body added that the squad selected needed to be "befitting a series of this significance.”

With the World Twenty20 competition taking place in the United Arab Emirates and Oman from Oct. 17-Nov. 14 and the five-test Ashes series beginning on Dec. 8 until mid-January, plus quarantine either side and before the Ashes, some players could be away from home for more than three months.

Ben Stokes, England's star allrounder, is currently missing for England because he is taking a break from cricket to protect his mental health.

England captain Joe Root hasn't committed to taking part in the Ashes amid the ongoing talks, and Australia captain Tim Paine said last week “the Ashes are going ahead ... whether Joe is here or not.”

The ECB statement suggests this is not the case and that England will not countenance taking a weakened squad to Australia.

England's international schedule has undergone repeated changes during the pandemic.

The team returned home early from tours of Sri Lanka and South Africa in 2020 while the fifth test against India in the countries' recent series in England was abandoned on the morning of the match after the Indians decided not to play due to fears over a COVID outbreak in its touring group.

England also canceled white-ball visits to Bangladesh and Pakistan that were scheduled to take place this month ahead of the World T20.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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