The 2021/22 Ashes series is set to start in December

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The England squad will meet with the England & Wales Cricket Board this week to discuss the Covid situation in Australia as fears grow some could pull out if they are not joined by their families.

The ECB is still trying to ascertain whether the players’ families will be able to accompany them on the Ashes tour due to Australia’s strict Covid quarantine rules.

They will meet with the senior players and Professional Cricketers’ Association later this week in Loughborough as part of their discussions over Covid protocols for the India series with the Ashes on the agenda too. 

The multi-format players face being away from the middle of September for the Twenty20 World Cup until the end of January when the fifth Test finishes.

It is normal for families to accompany the England team for most of the second half of a Test series in Australia. They usually join them in Perth and stay on until the end of the Sydney Test in early January.

But Australia has reduced the number of visas given out to overseas visitors as it battles the delta variant with lockdowns in place across the country. 

It has left some players worried they will not be joined on the trip by their loved ones. Jos Buttler has spoken in the past about the importance of having that support on tour. 

“That [winning the Ashes] would be a huge challenge, especially when you are accustomed to being able to take your family,” he said recently.

Jos Buttler has conceded that family support is vital for the players’ morale

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If the tour is hit by a number of withdrawls it would undermine the authenticity of the Ashes and start calls for the series to be delayed, possibly until 2022/23.

Cricket Australia are in the dark over whether families will be allowed and are due to meet with government officials. They managed to gain special permission for the India team to be accompanied by their families last year. 

The ECB is due to meet with CA early next month and they will update the players and Professional Cricketers’ Association when they meet later this week. Ashley Giles, the team director, and head coach Chris Silverwood have often talked about the importance of mental health and wellbeing and will be understanding if a player does not want to be away from his family for so long.

The Ashes is the greatest challenge mentally for any England player and it was always going to be tougher this winter with Covid rules preventing any travelling supporters from the UK. Without families to turn to for support it will be even harder to cope with the pressure and relentless nature of an Ashes series away from home.