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?
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London