Sarah Taylor: How England legend overcame 'demons' to return for The Hundred

  • Kat Lucas
p1f2j0d6evjjpg8s1hbao0r1rfbb.jpg

England World Cup winner Sarah Taylor will make a surprise return to cricket this summer after signing up for The Hundred. 

If Welsh Fire considered Australia captain Meg Lanning a coup, she will be joined by a wicket-keeper Lanning's compatriot Adam Gilchrist famously called the best in the world. 

For Taylor, it marks the end of a two-year hiatus having retired in 2019 amid battles with anxiety. 

"I didn't feel like I was grounded as a player," Taylor told GIVEMESPORT.

"I had a lot of things up in the air and I wasn't balancing or managing them at all. Expectation, confidence, being away from home all the time. I obviously had my own demons in there as well.

"There will be challenges in The Hundred, don't get me wrong, expectation is always going to be there, but I feel like I could almost have the best tournament in the world or the worst, but my life doesn't really change."

In the meantime, Taylor has been coaching with Sussex, fulfilling her own prophecy in becoming the first woman to do so in the men's game. 

"Not at any point did it feel odd or different. I've known [Sussex head coaches James] Kirtley and [Ian] Salisbury a really long time, they were in the England set-up when I was there.

"To get me into that set-up was an honour really, I pretty much did it for the fun of it. Just purely for the love of being a part of the team again and learning as much as I could from world-class coaches."

Coaching 'was not on my radar' 

That, in itself, represented a remarkable turnaround after deciding against coaching courses in the past. 

"I'm not going to lie, every time the ECB offered us Level One, Level Two, I just turned around. I just didn't want to be a coach, I didn't think about it at all until I got the opportunity to coach at [Bede's] school after my career.

"And then I fell in love with the art of coaching and what I do love about the school that I'm at is they push the holistic side of things as well which is a passion for me, and shaping the person, so it's not just about the sport. If I look back at my career, I spent far too much time focusing on the skills and not enough about me as a person.

"I said I wanted to be the first female in the men's game last year or the year before, which is amazing to think I said that and all of a sudden I'm here. It wasn't even on my radar."

p1f2j6nqd1os31vcb1pvs1kv6164ub.jpg

Taylor has always been open about the struggles which led to her stepping away from cricket in 2019. 

Despite winning two World Cups and three Ashes series, taking 232 wicket-keeping dismissals and scoring over 6,500 runs for her country, that meant it was only after she retired that she could truly reflect on what she's achieved. 

"It took me a while to appreciate what I'd done and be proud of what I did," Taylor adds. "But I think coming back and thinking about playing again made me reflect on the career I had a little bit more. Whereas before I just brushed it under the carpet. 

"Some people only get a couple of games in an England shirt and I managed to get almost 14 years."

What becomes clear is that Taylor's return goes hand-in-hand with her coaching as she looks forward to helping Welsh Fire's youngsters embrace their own careers much earlier on. 

Having helped launch the Mental Health and Wellbeing Hub at Sussex, her return has inevitably brought the subject of mental health in cricket back to the table. 

"I'm not coming back for that reason, but do I think that I can help the squad from that particular point of view? Absolutely.

"Given what you're going through, you can pick it up in other people as well without them even knowing about it. I like to shape people and make sure they're thinking properly about the game, and that it is just a game. 

"There's a lot of youngsters in this team all of a sudden thrust into a professional environment, so there's some dealings with that that they may need help with us. And I will push that point in the team if necessary. 

"There's a time and a place for things like that and hopefully I'll get it right with the girls."

Taylor will not be the only experienced international in the dressing room, though. Part of the franchise's appeal is its ability to attract some of the world's best overseas players. 

"To have the likes of Meg Lanning, Jess Jonassen and Beth Mooney in our team, those are the people you want, that's who you want to come and play. 

"It's great for the tournament and it's great for the youngsters to learn how professionals go about things from some of the best players in the world. Meg Lanning is, for me, the best player in the world. 

Welsh Fire begin their campaign against Northern Superchargers on 24 July. 

News Now - Sport News