It has been a complex process, one involving numerous government agencies and departments from both sides of the globe, including Australia’s high commissioner in the UK, George Brandis.
That it has been given the green light is reflective not just of the importance of the game in this country but the meticulous planning of CA’s working group.
Head of government relations Joe Fennessy has been working closely with government authorities to convince them why CA’s players should be among the one in four Australians whose request to leave the country while borders are closed should be granted by Australian Border Force.
Australia’s team manager Gavin Dovey is based in the UK and has been CA’s man on the ground during the complex planning. Dovey has been working in both time zones and liaising with English cricket officials on their biosecurity measures, which have formed the template for many other sporting bodies.
The medical team led by Dr John Orchard and Alex Kountouris have drawn up CA’s protocols, which ensure players will be protected on the road and won’t present a health risk upon returning home. This will aid their bid to have softer measures in place to allow them to train while in quarantine.
Australia’s players will be subjected to tighter measures than those initially proposed by the England and Wales Cricket Board, which were in place for the matches against the West Indies and Pakistan.
Players will be allowed to play golf, at least on the course within the team’s base at Southampton’s Rose Bowl, but they will have to make their own beds. It has more to do with minimising risk and not allowing others into their biosecure bubbles than getting players out of “gilded bubbles”, a criticism of the damning 2018 cultural review into the game.
CA has also requested hotel gyms be deep cleaned after use by England’s players, whereas sides have previously been satisfied with equipment being wiped down.
Unlike ordinary citizens, Australia’s players cannot leave the biosecure area for a drink at the local or to eat out, as they would have a year ago during the Ashes series. Any breach could jeopardise the series and lead to heavy penalties, as England’s Jofra Archer learnt the hard way last month when he stopped at home en route to joining the side.
CA’s harder line is not a judgment on the ECB’s $46 million biosecurity measures, which have allowed England to preserve their $250 million season. Zero positive results from about 5000 coronavirus tests is proof they have worked.
The economic imperatives of the tour were one of CA’s key points. International cricket relations are symbiotic. Though CA does not make money from this tour, it cannot reasonably expect England to tour here in 2021/22 if Australia do not travel.
The last Ashes series in Australia was expected to bring in about $400 million to the local economy, a 2017 study found, and the upcoming season against India is worth about $300 million to the game. Jobs in Australian cricket, more than 150 of which have already gone at the top level around the country, are depending on Virat Kohli’s side travelling.
Accompanying CA’s proposal were letters from ECB chief Tom Harrison, Brandis at Australia House in London and the UK’s secretary of state for sport Nigel Huddleston.
That the battle with England is one of the most celebrated rivalries in world sport was also expressed.
“We believe this tour is important to get international sport back up and running while acknowledging the significant investment required from both CA and the ECB to achieve this,” national teams boss Ben Oliver said.
“We do, however, believe the effort will prove worthwhile and stand as a shining example of what can be achieved when we all pull together – from the players and their attitude to the tour, to the backroom staff who have worked around the clock, and the commitment of both boards in making it happen.”
The hard work is by no means over. CA now has its own summer to save.
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald