Kevin Pietersen has branded the prospect of England's cricketers not seeing their family for four months during this winter's Ashes as "absolutely insane", and said he would support anyone who pulled out of the tour.
Those players involved in both the T20I and Test squads are facing the prospect of several months away from home at the end of the year, with an Ashes tour following the T20 World Cup. Combined with Australia's tough Covid-19 protocols, which render it almost impossible for casual visitors to travel to the country, it has raised the prospect of players either withdrawing from the series or England continuing the rest-and-rotation policy which has been utilised in recent months.
Responding to a Daily Mail article which outlined the issue, Pietersen wrote on Instagram: "Any England cricketer that pulls out of this winter's Ashes trip will have my full support. To not see your family for four months is absolutely insane. Complete and utter madness!
"An Ashes tour is hard enough and to do it without your family for all or part of it, is just stupid.
"After the last 12 months or so, the players deserve their families whenever they want. And to those who say, 'they get paid loads, so suck it up', just be quiet. An Ashes tour is a tough tour. Players need all their comforts and be happy.
"I would 100% pull out if I couldn't see my family for four months!"
Darren Gough, the former England fast bowler who has also worked as a consultant coach with the current team, replied with the comment: "Me 2 buddy".
As things stand, the England squad is expected to leave for a limited-overs tour of Bangladesh on or around September 20. While some players are likely to be rested for that trip - and the brief series in Pakistan which follows - the games will be used to fine-tune plans for the T20 World Cup which follows in October. The Test squad - as well as Lions players and those involved in the Big Bash - are then expected in Australia in the second half of November before the Ashes starts on December 8. It is scheduled to finish about six weeks later in Perth.
It is understood that Cricket Australia are currently lobbying the Australian government of the behalf of the ECB to allow a dispensation for families of the Ashes squad. According to the report in the Daily Mail, the ECB are prepared to pay for a charter flight to ensure families are able to attend. But at this stage there are no guarantees and a recent spike in cases in Sydney will do nothing to improve chances.
If there is no dispensation, it seems highly likely England will continue to rest and rotate their players. That has raised the real prospect that they will not field their strongest team at times during the Ashes series. Chris Silverwood, England's head coach, has previously confirmed he would be prepared to rest players from the series if the need for bio-bubbles was sustained.
Earlier in the week, Jos Buttler admitted there weren't "any perfect answers" to the issues presented by England's never-ending touring lifestyle in the time of Covid, but reiterated his support for the rest-and-rotation policy.
Pietersen, the former England captain, was a member of the 2013-14 Ashes squad and witnessed at first hand the burn-out of Jonathan Trott. He has long called for more sympathetic treatment of players.