England players who are in quarantine after returning from the Indian Premier League are to be allowed to decide whether they want to play in the two-Test series against New Zealand next month. Chris Silverwood, the head coach who is now responsible for picking the squad after the departure of Ed Smith as national selector, is expected to announce a 15-man squad next week.
The decision may add fuel to the debate about whether the England management is too consensual in its relationship with the players, who were given free rein to play in the IPL at the cost of missing the New Zealand Tests. Ashley Giles, the managing director of England men’s cricket, denied this meant that “the tail wags the dog”.
Eleven England players are serving ten days of quarantine after the IPL was indefinitely suspended. Of these, five are contenders for the Test squad: Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes. Although there will be sympathy for their confined existence, there would have been hope that the early return of the players might have given England a near-full strength squad for the Tests at Lord’s, starting on June 2, and Edgbaston, starting on June 10. Ben Stokes has been ruled out with a broken finger but most other players were expected to be available. The squad assembles in London on May 28.
The concern is that the players may not be mentally or physically fit. Even before quarantine, they spent long periods in biosecure bubbles in India, first during England’s Tests, Twenty 20s and one-day internationals, then at the IPL. Bairstow had been in India since mid-February while Ali, Buttler and Curran rejoined England’s tour for the white-ball matches around February 26, having been given time at home during the Tests series. Woakes arrived in late March in preparation for the IPL. When quarantine ends on Saturday, Bairstow will have spent almost 90 days in confinement and Ali, Buttler and Curran more than 75 days.