Brisbane, Nov.24: England's cricketers were at the centre of a diplomatic row when guests booed them for failing to attend an official pre-Ashes lunch in Brisbane. Former Australian wicketkeeper Ian Healy, who was hosting the function on behalf of the Queensland Cricket Association, twice encouraged an audience of a few hundred to vent their displeasure at England's no-show.
Healy reportedly told guests at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre: “The English have decided this lunch isn't big enough for them. We were told the reason is that Australians don't attend functions like this in England, but we're not in England now and we''d really liked to have seen the players here."
Six members of the Australian team, including captain Ricky Ponting, attended the 100-pound-a-head function, as well as members of the Australian management. The ECB, however, hit back at suggestions of a snub, insisting they had not received any invitation to attend the lunch, and pointing out that a memorandum of understanding with Cricket Australia requires both sides to attend only two carefully chosen functions per tour.
An ECB spokesman said: “We receive a number of requests to attend functions of this nature on tour and it''s not feasible to attend them all. We have already attended a number of functions above and beyond the requirements agreed between the ECB and Cricket Australia, and the players will be visiting the Royal Children''s Hospital in Melbourne around Christmas."
One England insider told the Daily Mail: “Ian Healy was being very cheeky. He knew what he was doing – he was just trying to stoke a bit of patriotism before the Ashes. But our conscience is clear."