West Indies v Australia T20Is - Men's
Agar urges long-term view as Aussie withdrawals loom
Ashton Agar says it's not sustainable for Australia's leading cricketers to be constantly travelling and playing during the pandemic
Adam Burnett and Martin Smith
9 June 2021, 05:33 PM AEST
Ashton Agar says he's "not surprised at all" by reports that many of Australia's leading cricketers may opt out of their upcoming winter tours due to the mental toll of travelling and quarantining during the pandemic.
After six more players were called up on Tuesday to a 29-man preliminary Australian squad for the limited-overs tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh (the squad size will be reduced before the touring party departs), national selection chair Trevor Hohns forecast the likely withdrawals of some of the country's best known cricketers who recently returned home from the Indian Premier League.
A report in Nine Media today said as many as seven frontline players – Pat Cummins, David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Kane Richardson and Jhye Richardson – could pull out of the tour after considerable periods in various cricketing bubbles in the past year.
Allrounder Daniel Sams, who contracted COVID-19 in India ahead of the IPL, had already made himself unavailable for selection on mental health grounds.
After the IPL was called off last month, the Australian contingent returned home via the Maldives after they were effectively locked out of the country when the Federal Government enacted a travel ban on all arrivals from India. Players, coaches and broadcasters eventually flew to Sydney and were released from mandatory two-week hotel quarantine on May 31.
The IPL experience came after all-format players like Warner, Cummins and Smith were restricted in a bio-secure bubble of some kind from late August until late January, which included multiple periods of quarantine and time away from loved ones.
While the willingness of Australia's best players to take part in two IPL tournaments involving four periods of quarantine inside 12 months is likely to reignite the 'club v country' debate, Agar says players need to be looked after.
"I'm not surprised at all (by potential withdrawals), and very understanding of that," he said in Brisbane.
"It's hard not to be (understanding), really; these guys are away for a very long time and unless you really put yourself in their shoes, it'd be tough to imagine the mental toll it takes on you.
"I think if anyone had to do so many stints of quarantine – a lot of these guys have done 10-12 weeks already, and Covid has been around for a year-and-a-bit now – it's a crazy amount of time just spent sitting around a hotel room with your own thoughts, without fresh air or whatever.
"They've been looked after really well in those times but for the longevity of their careers and for their own health, we need to look after them. And at times they're going to have to take a break, and that's what's happening."
The Australians will fly to the West Indies on June 28, meaning the IPL contingent would have less than a month at home before heading abroad again.
The tours of the Caribbean and Bangladesh would be followed by another 14 days of hotel quarantine upon arrival back in Australia before the national team heads overseas again ahead of the T20 World Cup in October. They would then return home for 14 more days of hotel quarantine ahead of the home summer, which is headlined by the Vodafone Ashes series against England.
It remains to be seen if Australian players will take part in the IPL when the tournament resumes in September ahead of the World Cup.
Agar believes the careful management of Australia's top players through the pandemic is likely to see the evolution of a new normal in the game, where selections are based as much on health and well-being as playing ability.
"We have to look a little bit long term with it all and understand that people can't keep grinding away like that," he added.
"If you want them to have shortened careers, or really not enjoy themselves, or pull out of the game, then the best way to do that is to grind them into the ground.
"But if we're trying to look after each other really well, then we'll prosper down the track, so what we're doing now is really good."
In a statement on Tuesday, Hohns indicated the additions of Ben McDermott, Dan Christian, Cameron Green, Ashton Turner, Wes Agar and Nathan Ellis to the preliminary squad were made in preparation for other players to withdraw.
"It has become clear that recent experiences abroad, including but not limited to extended periods in bio-secure hubs and hard quarantine, have had an impact on the health and wellbeing of some players and their families," Hohns said.
"CA has maintained that the wellbeing of players, staff and officials is a top priority, and never more so than during the Covid-19 pandemic given the extraordinary challenges it has placed upon international athletes and sporting teams."
Agar trained in Brisbane today alongside his brother Wes as well as Mitch Swepson, Mitchell Marsh and Tanveer Sangha. The quintet were put through their paces by Michael Di Venuto, who has returned to an Australia assistant coach role for the upcoming tours.
Qantas Tour of the West Indies 2021
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Wes Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Dan Christian, Pat Cummins, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Tanveer Sangha, D'Arcy Short, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa (squad to be trimmed before departure)
West Indies T20 squad: Kieron Pollard (c), Nicholas Pooran (vc), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Fidel Edwards, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Kevin Sinclair, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr
First T20: July 9, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 10, 9.30am AEST)
Second T20: July 10, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 11 9.30am AEST)
Third T20: July 12, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 13, 9.30am AEST)
Fourth T20: July 14, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 15, 9.30am AEST)
Fifth T20: July 16, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 7.30pm (July 17, 9.30am AEST)
First ODI: July 20, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 21, 4.30am AEST)
Second ODI: July 22, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 23, 4.30am AEST)
Third ODI: July 24, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 2.30pm D/N (July 25, 4.30am AEST)