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Root desperate to play Ashes but remains uncommitted

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LONDON: England captain Joe Root says he is ‘desperate’ to play in the Ashes series but cannot yet commit to tour Australia due to uncertainty over coronavirus (Covid-19) protocols.

Players and team management have yet to learn the exact conditions under which the five-Test series will take place, with those who have young families particularly concerned about the potentially stringent rules.

Talks between the England and Wales Cricket Board and their counterparts at Cricket Australia are ongoing and it is hoped a specific set of plans could be in place ahead of a squad announcement next week.

Root, who has two young children, refused to say if he would be available to lead England’s bid to regain the Ashes in a series scheduled to start in Brisbane on Dec 8.

“I feel it’s so hard to make a definite decision until you know,” Root said on Tuesday. “It’s a little bit frustrating but it’s where we are at. From a player’s point of view we just want to know what the position is and then we can make decisions.”

The 30-year-old, named the Professional Cricketers’ Association men’s player of the year, added: “I’m desperate to be part of an Ashes series. I always am. It’s that one series as an England player that you want to be involved in and that will never change.

“The position I’m at in my career, it could be the last opportunity I get to go, so of course it’s something you’re desperate to do, desperate to hopefully make history over there and be part of something very special.”

Although the fifth Test is scheduled to take place in Perth, it could be moved to another venue given the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Western Australia.

And the emergence of four new coronavirus cases in Queensland, the venue for the Ashes opener, led to the postponement of a Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania at just an hour’s notice on Tuesday.

Such a move will do little to allay the concerns of England players who have doubts about touring.

Root said: “I think it’s really important everyone makes a decision that they’re comfortable with. There are so many different factors that fall into it and hopefully we’re in a position where it’s not an issue.”

Root has so far enjoyed a memorable 2021, scoring 1,455 runs at an average of 66.13 in 12 Tests, with two double hundreds and four centuries but he is yet to score a Test century in Australia.

Meanwhile, Root hailed Moeen Ali as a role model and said he would be a huge loss to the Test side after the all-rounder announced his decision to quit the longest format of the game on Monday.

“There are a number of things I’ll look back on when I’m finished as captain, that I could look back on with regret that I could have done slightly differently,” Root said. “The one thing I will say is when Mo has played, he’s been brilliant. You look at the amount of games he has affected, the amount of special moments he has had on a cricket field in the Test match format has been exceptional.”

Root said Moeen, who intends to specialise in white-ball cricket, had not been appreciated enough outside of the dressing room and added he would be a ‘huge loss’ to the England Test side.

“He’s a great personality to have in and around the dressing room, and he’s a great brain for younger players to learn from and to feed off,” Root said.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2021

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