VIEW FROM AUSTRALIA: If England's cricketers want to stay at home with their WAGs then let them


Does the English Cricket Board really think the Australian public will be concerned by reports that some of England’s best players are considering boycotting this year’s Ashes?

What’s the big deal? England has been sending second-rate teams down to Australia for decades, and besides, we Aussies don’t care who we play against, just as long as we win.

One of Australia’s greatest sporting heroes is speed skater Steven Bradbury who won a gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics when everyone else in the race fell over, so that gives you an insight into our mindset.

Australia don't care what England side they play in the Ashes this winter, as long as they win

Australia don’t care what England side they play in the Ashes this winter, as long as they win

Every television in the country will be tuned in to the slaughter from Tim Paine's side

Every television in the country will be tuned in to the slaughter from Tim Paine’s side

England can field the Crinkley Bottom Under-14 C’s for all we care. Barring lockdown, the grounds, pubs and clubs will still be packed, while every television in the country will be tuned in to the slaughter.

The Pommy supporters can whinge all they like; say it wasn’t a fair contest, that their superstars were back home sitting in front of the fire while the Aussie bullies ran roughshod over the reserves, but not too many people south of the equator will be listening.

The result will be in the record books – and there won’t be any asterisk. Nor should there be.

If the England players don’t want to follow conditions imposed by the Australian authorities during the current pandemic, then that’s their decision. No-one is forcing them to make the tour, and while there will be those who are quick to label them spoilt if they stay home, they will no doubt also get plenty of support.

Steve Smith (L) and David Warner (centre) are two of seven Aussies to be missing from the current series in Bangladesh

Steve Smith (L) and David Warner (centre) are two of seven Aussies to be missing from the current series in Bangladesh

Obviously it is tough to ask them to leave their partners and children behind for up to four months, and the Australian government’s reported decision to put the red line through the traditional Christmas ‘family reunion’ in Melbourne would make it even tougher.

But these are tough times, and let’s not forget that spending time away from home is part of a professional athlete’s job description.

Even as I write, the Australian cricket team is playing a T20 series in Bangladesh after having toured the West Indies. Okay, admittedly seven top players didn’t go, but they all had good reasons. Steve Smith was injured and David Warner was … well, I’m not sure what Dave’s excuse was but I’m sure it was good. They always are.

As someone who spent the best part of 30 years following sporting teams around the world while my wife struggled with the ups and downs of raising four kids back home, I must admit I’m not as sympathetic as some when I hear about the sacrifices made by our high-profile sportsmen and women.

Especially when considering the disparity in the size of my pay-packet and that of, say, a Test cricketer. Not that this debate should be solely about money.

Obviously it is tough to ask Joe Root and Co to leave their partners and children behind for up to four months

Obviously it is tough to ask Joe Root and Co to leave their partners and children behind for up to four months

Surely a sense of community responsibility should come into it as well.

Aren’t these cricket players entertainers as much as athletes? We hear so much these days about the mental stress that athletes are under. What about the stress that ordinary men and women are going through right now?

If taking part in a series of cricket matches can play a role in alleviating some of that pressure and raise morale for a few months, isn’t it worth a bit of pain?

We’ve read in Australia recently about how our country’s response to Covid has made us a laughingstock around the world; about how vision of heavy-handed Victorian police hassling two elderly women for sitting on a bench without their face masks went viral, and how our government’s vaccine rollout is snail-paced in comparison to the UK and US.

It’s all true. We know it all too well, and as more and more parts of our country go back into lockdown, the spirits of Australians sink further.

But spending time away from home is part of a professional athlete's job description

 But spending time away from home is part of a professional athlete’s job description

Which is where sport comes in.

For the past two weeks Australians have basked in the success of our young Olympians in Tokyo. Time after time a gold medallist has made the point that if they can make the people back home feel a little better, then everything they have gone through to get to the Games has been worthwhile.

For those two weeks the gloom of lockdown has been lifted, if only briefly. People in England would have gone through a similar boost of euphoria during the 2019 Rugby World Cup and Euro 2020, right up until the moment their teams choked in the final.

Authorities in Australia are banking on another lift in the country’s collective spirits during the Ashes – which is why the England cricketers shouldn’t make any rash decisions about whether they will commit to the tour or not.

If I was a betting man, I’d be having a few bob on the Australian government rolling over and thinking twice about denying the England players’ families entry into the country.

England has a boost of euphoria at Euro 2020 and Australia are banking on another lift in the country's collective spirits during the Ashes

England has a boost of euphoria at Euro 2020 and Australia are banking on another lift in the country’s collective spirits during the Ashes

While Australians haven’t seen a lot of compassion from our leaders over the past year or so when it comes to such things as allowing relatives to visit their dying loved ones, what we have seen is our State and Federal governments bending over backwards to pander to major sporting bodies.

It all gets back to the old Roman ploy of ‘bread and circuses’ – ensuring votes by keeping the masses fed and entertained – which has led to the ridiculous situation where weddings and funerals have been restricted to a handful of guests, while on the same day tens of thousands of rugby league and Australian Rules fans have been jammed into packed stadiums.

The Queensland government has made an art-form of it. The only break Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk took from welcoming interstate footballers, netballers and racing car drivers – and their families – across the supposedly locked border, was when she jetted over to Tokyo to secure the 2032 Olympics for Brisbane.

With millions of dollars in TV money for Cricket Australia at risk, to say nothing of millions of votes for Federal and State governments, you can rest assured that one way or another the Ashes will go ahead.

And no matter who pads up for England, we’ll still win.

You can rest assured that one way or another the Ashes will go ahead and the Aussies will win

You can rest assured that one way or another the Ashes will go ahead and the Aussies will win

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