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No favours for England cricketers: Aussie PM

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SYDNEY: England cricketers heading to Australia for the Ashes this year will get ‘no special deals’ allowing their families to join them, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared.

The five-Test series is due to start in Brisbane on Dec 8, but whether England bring a full-strength squad remains to be seen.

Some players, particularly those with young children, have expressed concern that their families may be unable to travel with them because of strict Australian border controls.

Morrison told reporters following a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Washington on Wednesday night that he would ‘love’ to see the Ashes go ahead, but there would be no favours.

“There’s no special deals there, because what we’re looking to have is vaccinated people being able to travel,” he said referring to Australia’s national plan out of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, under which international borders are set to re-open to vaccinated people when 80 percent of the population over 16 are fully jabbed.

The figure currently stands at almost 50 percent, although officials in some states have indicated they will set their own timetables for opening up.

The prime minister added that he does not see ‘a great deal of difference’ between cricketers and people attempting to come to the country for work or to study even after the vaccination goals have been reached.

“I raised it and he said he was going to do his best for the families,” Johnson told reporters in Washington. “He totally got the point that for cricketers it is very tough to ask people to be away from their families over Christmas. He merely undertook to come back and see if he could find a solution.”

Morrison faces a complicated situation with thousands of Australians still stranded overseas due to border closures and limited space in quarantine facilities, and giving special treatment to the families of England cricketers would likely spark an outcry.

Johnson had told reporters after having dinner with Morrison: “That I raised it and he said he was going to do his best for the families.”

The governing body’s chief executive Nick Hockley said earlier this month he was sympathetic to England’s plight.

“The work we are doing at the moment is to ensure we provide optimum conditions for both sides and all the support staff and families that want to accompany them,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2021

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