England’s Sarah Taylor is the cover star of the AOC women’s special – a bulging 68-pager free with AOC this month. Here are extracts from a sprawling and entertaining interview.
Since making her international debut back in 2006 as a bubbly 17-year-old and becoming England’s shoo-in wicketkeeper-batsman shortly afterwards, Sarah Taylor says she’s changed “completely”. But though she’s won all there is to win, and is regarded by many as potentially the finest female batsman the world has seen – the one player who would thrive in men’s first-class cricket – she’s still not far off the infectiously lively, funny character who first started. She now occupies the pivotal No.3 spot in all forms and is one of the best English players – male or female – there is to watch. Still only 23 years old, here Sarah tells Ed Kemp there’s plenty more to come.
It’s been quite a career already Sarah – I know you’re still only 23, but you’d won the Ashes, the World Cup and the World Twenty20 at the age of 19…
Yeah! Yeah that’s not too bad is it!? I hadn’t really thought about it until you just brought it up there, I’ll think about it now!
What’s changed in that time?
I wouldn’t say my cricket has changed too much, I think I’ve still got that flair – but I am probably more consistent than I was, cricket-wise. As a person, I’ve definitely changed, I’m completely different. I was young, naïve; I know I’m still only 23, but I’ve definitely changed. Cricket-wise, probably a few technical things. And I’m just more calculated. I was a bit gung-ho back then, I guess.
What were you like as a person when you started then?
I was just a child. I was 17, I was quite a lively, bubbly youngster, had to be at the heart of everything. Whereas now I prefer to sit back, watch, let them get on with it. I’m a completely different person now.
You mention your break – you decided not to tour with England in the 2010/11 winter – what was the story there?
I’d been playing since I was 17, I was 21 at the time, I’d hit the point in my life where I was thinking: is cricket the right thing? Do I need to look at other avenues? Maybe I’d take time away from it and just see what else is out there. I ended up seeing family in New Zealand, and ended up playing out there… Three or four months out there and I just properly started missing it, and I was wanting to come back home because I missed it so much. Then I got an opportunity to play for Wellington and I took it. England were brilliant about it, they said: ‘We just want you to start playing cricket again.’ And then I came back into the fold and it’s been good ever since.
It’s such a massive year with the two World Cups and the Ashes, coming round together again like in 2009. How are you feeling about it?
With regards to the previous World Cups – that’s gone, we’ve ‘parked’ that, I’ve parked it in my head, and it’s not even thought about now. It’s just a case of: ‘Right, this is what we’ve got to do, this is the next one, we’ll get on and do that.’ So we’ll just take the tournaments as they come, not really remember the past, and if we do win then think about it after and say: ‘You know what, we’ve done alright there.’ People do say: ‘Well, you’ve won them now, what’s left to do?’ And we’re like: ‘Win it again!’ That’s what we’ve got to do. It sounds quite simple really doesn’t it? We’re quite a down to earth side, just taking each game and each tournament as it comes.
And you said you wanted to speak to Graham Thorpe when you’ve seen him at Lord’s – you told AOC he was your hero – have you spoken to him yet?
No, I haven’t! I really haven’t had the chance. He hides, honestly he does. He was a major hero for me. I’ve got no batting style similar to him whatsoever, but just watching him – people say he only had a couple of shots, but he did them bloody well. I do see him around the place actually – I’ve got to say hi to him, haven’t I? I’m so nervous – he doesn’t have a clue, I’ll just be like: ‘Blah, blah’ and then he’ll go: ‘Who?’ I’m sweating already! No, I will, I will say hi! But I don’t know what to say! ‘Can you sign my bat?’
What would you say to young players about batting – what are you thinking about with the bowler at the end of her run?
I’d probably think more about the approach as I step out to the crease, so the situation we’re in, what’s needed, I feel like even though I’m young I’ve played enough cricket to know what I would do in different situations. Batting No.3 now, I have to probably take a little less risk, but Twenty20 is a bit different – it’s quite a selfless game, whereas in the 50-over game there’s the whole building an innings thing, being an anchor role at No.3, so probably a bit less gung-ho than I was, a bit more tactically aware, I guess. I talk a lot with Mark [Lane, England coach] about being ‘mind-ready’ so I can be mucking around off the field and then as soon as I know I’m in, I switch on, ‘mind-ready’ and go out. That’s probably where I’ve changed.
You still want to hold on to the instinctive play that made you successful in the first place, right?
Completely. I’ve still got that flair – that’s more in my Twenty20 armoury. When I was young I did it in a quite small period or package, and now I probably spread it out, hopefully into a longer innings. A hundred plus!
We’ve seen in recent months that you’ve taken to not wearing keeping pads behind the stumps. Is that something you’re sticking with?
Yeah I’m sticking with it. I wear hockey pads inside my trousers, they come right up to the bottom of my knee – so not too bad. I’ve got a few bruises, but it’s good because the girls buy me nice socks for extra padding! It was something that myself, Mark and Carl [Crowe, assistant coach] looked at to take the game forward. There isn’t the pace in the women’s game… I’m not saying that Katherine [Brunt] is slow, it’s just that, if I’m getting hit on the knee, bar an inside edge or a bottom edge, if I get hit then it’s my fault, it’s my bad hands and stuff like that. I like it: I feel like I’m a fielder with gloves on, I’ve got more movement. There were occasional times when I’d hit my pad on the way through when I was trying to move my gloves as quickly as possible. So I just said: ‘Well, why don’t I get rid of the pads?’
You’re right at the top of the rankings, playing in a team that is achieving, on top of the world. How does it feel, do you really take it in?
I’ve never really thought about the scale of what we’re doing. I mean, I still feel like a kid when I’m batting at the non-striker’s end from Charlotte [Edwards], and that’s ridiculous really isn’t it, I’ve been playing with her for how long!? I haven’t really thought about it; I think it will be one of those things where I’ll finish my career and I’ll think: ‘Do you know what? I’ve done alright there, I’ve done well.’ I feel like the time before my break I’ve kind of brushed clean, and started again. So technically I’ve only been playing for about two years anyway…
For the full interview and much more, you can pick up the AOC women’s cricket special free with AOC this month, in WHSmith and many independent newsagents