England in South Africa 2009-10 December 23, 2009

Christmas on tour with England isn't what it used to be

Gone are the days when families used to accompany players on tours and join the Christmas festivities

Gone are the days when families used to accompany players on tours and join the Christmas festivities. Sometimes, things got a little out of hand. Tours were full of little anecdotes, reminisces Mike Selvey in the Guardian.

Gone forever is what became the traditional Christmas morning drinks party hosted by the press. No more, either, the fancy dress Christmas dinner. David Lloyd, Bumble, was telling me yesterday how, when he was team coach, they had a themed party where every player had to come as another team member. The lad who arrived carrying a cricket stump with a white hand towel wrapped around each end won the contest when he announced that he was Andrew Caddick and this was a necessarily giant cotton bud. Meanwhile, Wayne Morton, the team physio, had been charged with providing a present for each member. Dominic Cork, Bumble recalls, was given a can of Boddington's, because, said Morton, "you are indeed a bitter man".

Pick Ian Bell for Durban or not? In the Times, Michael Atherton says England's dilemma is similar to what happened a few months ago after they were trampled over by an innings at Headingley in the Ashes. There, the decision to drop the No.6 batsman for The Oval worked wonders. He adds that if England are looking for balance, they can pick Liam Plunkett because his batting has improved considerably over the past couple of years.

It would be easier to understand England playing the same side now than the original selection. Selectors do not like changing the team after only one match, because it suggests an error has been made and it is the kind of error that can quickly cause players to lose faith in those passing judgment upon them, something that can affect the morale of the dressing room badly. It is why those initial decisions need to be taken with such care and why it is important to get them right.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo