Cricket: Atherton against family visits on tour

The England captain, Mike Atherton, has appealed to players to keep wives and girlfriends away from this winter's tour of Zimbabwe and New Zealand.

Several players are still believed to be planning to fly in partners during the 14-week tour, which starts on 25 November and includes the Christmas and New Year period. A team meeting was held during England's training trip to southern Portugal this week in an effort to resolve the issue. Atherton and the coach, David Lloyd, see the trip as vital to the build-up to next summer's Ashes series against Australia.

Atherton said: "We have had a chat about it and there were some strong views aired. We have tried to persuade the players we would like, in this instance, families to stay at home. But there is no clause saying players will be disciplined if wives come out. I don't, however, expect to see any."

However, it is part of a general agreement with Lord's that players should be allowed to be visited by family members during a long tour. More than half of England's 15-man squad are married, with seven players having small children.

The tour manager, John Barclay, said: "We have nothing against family members coming out, and it's certainly not a policy matter in general terms, but with Christmas coming just a month into the tour we feel in this instance there will not be any organised visits. We feel families coming in alter the focus and atmosphere, and I think everyone can appreciate that what we are trying to do this winter is create a situation where England can be as successful as possible."

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