French visit invokes battlefield spirit
Australia will look to the spirit of World War I soldiers today when they visit the French battlefields where 46,000 of their countrymen died. In a tradition begun by Steve Waugh, who engineered a stop-off at Gallipoli in 2001, the one-day squad will travel to Villers-Bretonneux and visit the Australian National Memorial for a wreath-laying ceremony.
The players will also inspect the 2nd Division Memorial at Pozieres, a village defended by Australia troops on August 4, 1916 and the site of the heaviest Australian casualties during the war. "We will just be drawing back on the experience of 2001, looking back at the events of all those years ago, being an Australian, what it means," Gilchrist told The Australian. "I'm sure they will all be similar sorts of emotions and thoughts during this trip. And from a cricketing perspective, it really brought the guys together."
Gilchrist said the coach John Buchanan got the players to address the team after the Gallipoli visit. "That was probably the stand-out memory in my mind of 2001," he said. "I look forward to learning more about our history and what took place many years ago."
Ricky Ponting said he wanted the battlefield visits to become a regular part of Ashes Tours. The squad will stay in France tonight before returning to England for the first match of the tour, which is a Twenty20 fixture against the Professional Cricketers' Association at Arundel on Thursday.