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.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering