Festive spirit pales for Ashes tourists of today

The England team may not have a great deal to celebrate, but it did not prevent them from holding their biggest ever Christmas Party here yesterday. More than 90 family members and close friends joined Andrew Flintoff and his squad on the 25th floor of the Langham Hotel to enjoy a slap-up meal and a glass or two of champagne or Sauvignon Blanc.

England still have a great deal to play for in the remaining two Tests of this Ashes series. Australia are looking to send off Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath in perfect style with a 5-0 whitewash in their last Ashes series before retirement, yet that should not deter Flintoff's team from having a couple of glasses of wine with their Christmas lunch. Total abstinence would have made very little difference to the performance of the team this morning and you can bet Warne will have enjoyed a tipple with his team-mates.

Christmas Day in Australia is a difficult one for an England cricketer. By now every wife or partner will have flown in from England and the hailstorm that hit Melbourne yesterday morning will have made those who have not been in Australia for the past month or so feel at home.

The players with young children will have been woken earlier than usual. As a father you want to relax and join in with the festivities, but it is extremely difficult when the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground looms like an enormous grey cloud.

Playing at the 'G', a huge amphitheatre that holds in excess of 100,000 spectators, is a unique but wonderful experience. From the moment an England cricketer arrives in Australia he is told about the Boxing Day Test and, having played in two, I can testify that it is a nerve-racking but satisfying experience.

After the presents have been opened it is down to the ground for a gentle practice session. The training is light-hearted and several of the team would wear a red-and-white Santa Claus hat as they went through the warm-up and fielding drills.

Such headwear was absent yesterday, as are most of the traditional events that marked the day a decade ago. It is disappointing to see. The life of an England cricketer now seems to be far more serious than it was in the Nineties, and the players appear to take themselves far more seriously than those of previous generations.

Attitudes changed in the late Nineties when, under the guidance of the then England coach, David Lloyd, relationships between the players and media began to fracture. Under the present coach, Duncan Fletcher, the gap has widened.

On my first two tours to Australia it was traditional for every member of the touring party to wear fancy dress at the Christmas lunch. A week before arriving in Melbourne each player was given a letter or a topic and they had to go and find the relevant clothing. An afternoon was spent visiting a fancy-dress shop and kitting ourselves out.

The attitude of the wives and girlfriends was far more relaxed too. On my first tour Lyndsey Lamb, the wife of Allan, invited the women round to her room for a champagne breakfast once we had gone to practice. England were sponsored by a champagne company and they were all legless by the time we returned.

In 1990-91 I was the Jolly Green Giant and in 1994-95 Lurch out of The Addams Family. I was OK but Denise, my wife, did not particularly enjoy dressing up as Morticia. The press would put on a little sketch for the players while the photographers snapped away at us. It was tradition for the first-time tourists to produce a little show for the rest of the party too. In 1990 Michael Atherton (Lucifer), John Morris (Rommel) and Philip Tufnell (a sheikh) acted out a spoof Question of Sport. Tufnell stole the show taking off Graham Gooch, the captain, brilliantly.

Christmas lunch is somewhat different. Hot turkey, sausages, potatoes, sprouts, cauliflower and stuffing do not go down particularly well in 35-degree heat and lunch here revolves around a huge seafood spread.

Once lunch has been devoured attitudes turn towards the cricket and players begin drifting back to their rooms. After an afternoon kip and a room-service meal a nervous but excited night's sleep awaits.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory