The wives and girlfriends of England’s footballers have become part of the nation’s cultural fabric. A soccer Wag acquires instant celebrity status; their exploits, however trivial, are hungrily devoured by the tabloids – and inspire racy TV drama series.
In golf’s Ryder Cup, the players’ partners generate their own biosphere of glamour and sub-plots. Their fashion choices become virtually a competition within a competition.
By contrast, cricketers’ wives are almost completely anonymous. Perhaps the only woman to achieve renown for being married to a cricketer is Frances Edmonds – but even her status stemmed from her talents as an author and broadcaster in her own right. It’s hard to imagine her and husband Phil posing in white suits and bling to promote the National Lottery.
Andrew Flintoff’s wife Rachael dabbled in photo shoots before leaving the limelight to raise their family. Which leaves Jessica Taylor (above) – Mrs KP and former member of Liberty X – as the only plausible candidate for a genuine cricketing Wag.
But the role of England players’ better halves is now, for once, under the spotlight, after coach Andy Flower’s decision to ban them from the first half of the Ashes tour. They will join their menfolk only just before Christmas, for the third test onwards, but leave before the one-dayers.
Flower told a Lord’s press conference earlier this week: “I did feel the need to restrict the presence of families on tour. I think it’s important for us to get together as a group and focus fully on the game. It’s a tricky thing for players and management — most of us have kids. If you’ve got a group of almost 30 people going away on tour you are going to have differing opinions and you can’t please everyone all of the time. We try to time the families’ visit when it would be healthy thing for the group. Having them there will be a good thing, as we’ll have been on tour five weeks by then. It also coincides with Christmas and New Year and it’s important to be with family over that time.”
So is Flower right to suggest that the prescence of Wags undermines the effectiveness of a cricket side? You can argue it both ways. With the wives and kids around, the spirit of comaraderie and togetherness must inevitably be diluted – and with that, arguably, a loss of focus. And what about the single guys – who might end up feeling rather isolated? Conversely, the emotional wrench of lengthy separation from loved ones – and the feelings of guilt – are unlikely do your game much good. Partners and children provide a chance to take players’ mind off the cricket from time to time, and stay mentally fresh. In the 2001 Ashes the Australian wives and children were present throughout – and as their husbands hammered us in the series, it clearly did them little harm.
So what’s your view? Has Andy Flower got it about right? Should the Wags and kids come and go as they please? Or should they just stay home and let the men get on with the cricket? We’d love to hear your thoughts.