David Warner believes that restrictive biosecurity bubbles of the kind Australia are expected to encounter while touring England in September may be a factor for players with families, who might choose to retire rather than face long stints away from their partners and children.
Speaking about the realities in the time of Covid-19 – ahead of the England tour, followed by the IPL in the UAE, and then the home summer – Warner said that time with his family of wife Candice and their three daughters would appear less likely in an environment where teams need to be quarantined in order to fulfil international fixtures. The demands of that scenario will figure highly in Warner’s thinking when he considers when to pare back or finish his days as an international cricketer, having flagged last summer that he was considering, at the age of 33, whether to retire from one or more international formats in order to prolong his overall playing time.
“Obviously three daughters and my wife, who I owe a lot to, has been a big part of my playing career,” he said. “You’ve always got to look out for your family first, and with cricket and these unprecedented times, you’ve got to weigh up these decisions. Look, at the moment, I’ll keep continuing to aim for that. Obviously the T20 [World Cup] is not here at home, which would have been ideal to play that and win that here. Now that gets pushed back. I will have to have a rethink about that when it comes to India.
“I’ll see where I am and where the girls are at with school as well. A lot of that is a big part of my decision. It’s not just when the games are being played and how much cricket’s being played. It’s a big family decision for myself. There are times when you go away and miss your family a lot and at the moment with all these biosecurity measures that are in place, we’re going to not be able to have the luxury of our families coming away with us now and it could be for the foreseeable future.
“As the prime minister [Scott Morrison] said, we might not be able to go overseas or visitors won’t be able to come into Australia. They are things that we need to play by ear and if and when I do make that decision, it’ll be predominantly a family decision.”
We’re obviously unsure and unclear given states are in lockdown or not letting people from other states go interstate. We have to sit back and wait for the government and states to see what the regulations are behind that. All we can do really is train with our states and prepare as well as we can on the wickets provided to get ready for the season
Victoria’s current outbreak has left the state in a precarious position relative to the rest of the country, leaving Warner to conclude that Australia may need to get their heads around not playing in Melbourne around the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays for the first time in living memory.
“Yeah, we have to look at it like that. I’m sitting here and you guys are too today looking at how many cases are happening in Victoria at the moment,” he said. “Even the guys trying to get out of Victoria, it’s very, very challenging as well. It’s going to be challenging for everyone. I think we spoke about state cricket. That’s the perfect example. How is Victoria going to be able to start (Sheffield) Shield cricket down there. At the moment, it seems like it’ll be impossible.
“But I think they’ll have to put things in place to play it somewhere else. Even if we do play down there, then coming out of Victoria you’ll have to quarantine for 14 days into other states. There are so many elements to it that it’s out of our control and hands at the moment. Whatever happens, if you put something in place now, it’s going to change tomorrow. It’s very, very difficult to process. We’ll have to see and adapt. And you might see the first Boxing Day Test not in Melbourne.”
Looking at the likelihood of travelling to England, then to the UAE for a relocated IPL, then home for scheduled Tests against Afghanistan and India, Warner agreed that a surfeit of white-ball matches would not be an ideal lead-in when lined up against the two or three Shield fixtures that Australia’s cricketers have become accustomed to playing before the start of a home international season.
“Usually you have a couple of Shield games leading into a Test series, especially at home,” he said. “So I think the unique thing about it is the Indian team and ourselves are going to be in the same boat really. We’re going to have a lack of red-ball cricket preparation and end of the day we have to make the most of that time training in the lead up to the Test series.
“We’ve played enough high-level cricket to adapt to red ball. But there are obviously guys back in Australia who won’t be playing in the one-day series or the IPL, who have to try and get ready to prepare. Hopefully there are a couple of games they can play interstate against each other, if something is put in place. We’re obviously unsure and unclear given states are in lockdown or not letting people from other states go interstate.
“We have to sit back and wait for the government and states to see what the regulations are behind that. All we can do really is train with our states and prepare as well as we can on the wickets provided to get ready for the season.”
In a way, the challenges will be a more concentrated version of the kind of dilemmas Australia’s cricketers and selectors have faced most years since the dawn of the Big Bash League, and even before that with the T20 Champions League, which forced players to juggle formats at a formative time of the season.
“I feel that – obviously there is going to be a squad of 15 picked for example, and if there’s no Shield cricket being played up until Christmas, it doesn’t give anyone else an opportunity to be picked,” Warner said. “Like if there’s an injury there is nobody coming up from red-ball cricket. So there are these situations that we’re going to have to play by ear and try to get guys to be prepared in case something happens.
“There’s three Tests leading into Christmas and coming off three or four Shield games played beforehand as well. So there’s going to be a lack of red-ball cricket obviously – it’s going to be challenging. If someone goes down, we’ll have to bring a person in with a lack of red-ball preparation. That’s foreign to all of us. It doesn’t really happen – and we’re just going to have to adapt to that.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.