England's cricketers have been told to enjoy themselves over Christmas after spending 10 weeks in Asia on a strict diet of pasta, energy-replacement drinks and the gym. Under Michael Vaughan's captaincy England have trained as hard as any cricket team to have left Britain, but their mood on returning home will be moulded by events over the next five days. After battling for draws against Sri Lanka in Galle and Kandy, England will be hoping to steal this three-Test series in the final Test which starts here today.
"Obviously we want them to wind down after this Test match and hopefully they can have a few celebratory beers when they get home," Nigel Stockhill, England's fitness trainer, said. "They are very professional and they know what they should and should not eat but they are also allowed the odd treat here and there."
Following back-to-back tours of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, England will have two months off before they travel to the Caribbean at the end of February. There they will play the West Indies in four Test matches and seven one-day internationals. With this in mind, Vaughan's squad for that tour - which will be announced on 6 January - will not be allowed to become slobs and are expected to do some training during their break.
"This is the first time we have had a two-month break in the four years I have been doing this job and we will encourage them to have time off," Stockhill said. "The players know what is expected of them and they appreciate the benefits of being that little bit stronger and fitter. So even though the two weeks from 23 December to 4 January are for rest, recovery and rehabilitation, we do not want them switching off completely.
"We will be expecting them to do one or two things just to tick over so that they do not struggle when we get into the next phase of training. This is all part of a four-year plan which is geared to winning the Ashes in Australia and the World Cup."
* Australia's chances of fighting back in their home series against India suffered a blow yesterday when their fast bowler Glenn McGrath was ruled out of the third and fourth Tests. McGrath, who missed the first two of the series after ankle surgery, will be out for around three weeks.Reuse content