No pedalos for England at this World Cup

Pedalos on Reduit Beach in St Lucia Matt Roller / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

I had barely been in St Lucia half an hour when it was first mentioned.

"The English have had some good times here," said Moses, who drove me from the tiny George FL Charles Airport near Castries to my hotel in Rodney Bay, when I told him I was here to cover the T20 World Cup 2024. Did he mean the 2010 semi-final win against Sri Lanka? Or Mark Wood's first Test five-for, in 2019? No. "Like Mr Flintoff," Moses said, with a grin.

This island was the scene of one of the stranger moments of an England World Cup campaign. In 2007, Flintoff was among a number of players and staff who broke the team's curfew after a defeat to New Zealand and stayed in a bar named Rumours - which is now nowhere to be found - until the small hours of the morning.

When he returned to the team hotel on Reduit Beach, he noticed boats tied up out to sea. "It sounds bizarre, but I knew Ian Botham was on one and I thought: 'I'm going to have a nightcap with Beefy,'" he later recalled. His initial plan to use a kayak was thwarted by the lack of an oar so he dragged a pedalo into the water. The newspapers reported that he had to be rescued at 4am after capsizing.

It was enough to get him stripped of the vice-captaincy and was the abiding memory of England's World Cup, in which they failed to progress beyond the Super Eight. Michael Vaughan suggested it had been a major factor in their performance: "After Fredalo we just started taking it all too seriously," he said. "That might sound silly, but everyone was too tense and desperate."

Seventeen years on, Flintoff is back with the England squad as an assistant coach. He was integrated into the white-ball set-up last year after recovery from life-threatening injuries sustained while filming for Top Gear but has kept a very low profile. He has been with the squad on and off since September but is yet to speak publicly. The team hotel is still there on Reduit Beach, under new ownership, and there is a row of kayaks and pedalos tied up outside it.

But England's players do not have much time to enjoy St Lucia's nightlife while they are here, let alone any late-night watersports. They arrived on Sunday, play on Wednesday night and Friday morning, and will head to Barbados on Friday night. It rules out the possibility of a visit to the weekly Gros Islet street party, which was very popular among other squads and coaching staffs last Friday.

It is a difficult balance to strike during a World Cup. Clearly, highly paid international athletes' primary focus has to be on the tournament itself, and doing everything they can to win games for their country: that does not tend to involve heavy drinking. But as Vaughan's comments suggest, obsessive preparation at the expense of relaxation does not necessarily lend itself to top performance. It has been notable during this tournament how relaxed Australia's camp has seemed, for example, taking squad boat trips and enjoying the Caribbean's beautiful beaches.

On Sunday night, Sybrand Engelbrecht seemed genuinely taken aback when asked how demanding it had been for Netherlands to travel from Dallas, then New York, then St Vincent and finally St Lucia in the group stage. "It's a fantastic opportunity to go and see more places," he said. "What a privilege it is to play in four different venues… it has been a world-class experience." They have made the most of their time in the Caribbean.

England are mainly keeping their heads down. "It's an advantage that we've toured here quite a lot in the recent years, so it's nothing new to us," Reece Topley said on Monday. "Everyone knows what to expect once we're out here, knows what you can do to keep your head down and stay fresh for the games… Representing England at a World Cup, no matter where it is, is always a highlight of your career."