Sarah Taylor’s batting is as good as ever as she continues her return to the international fold, according to her England teammate Jenny Gunn.
It is just over a year since Taylor, 28, took an indefinite break from cricket after struggling with anxiety. “It was a genuine kind of panic, the heart races, you feel faint,” she said last June. “There have been times I’ve had to run off into the changing room and be sick through sheer panic.”
A significant stage in her comeback was marked in April, as she joined up with the England team for a training camp in the UAE, a trip which included three warm-up games against Ireland. Taylor played in the second of these, scoring 26* in a successful chase, before making a half-century for Sussex against Kent back in England. She has since been named in England’s squad of 15 for the World Cup.
“The way she’s batted, she’s not rusty at all,” says Gunn, England’s leading ODI wicket-taker. “She’s just the Sarah Taylor we all know. She’s worked really hard, and she’s had amazing support. Hopefully she can continue to bat like that in the future.”
Taylor’s break followed a World T20 campaign in which she tallied just 49 runs in five innings at an average of 9.80. Following England’s semi-final exit from that tournament, head coach Mark Robinson lambasted their fitness. “We’ve got to get fitter and toughen up a little bit,” he said. “We’re looking for players who can stand up and be counted and play under the pressure, and have the aerobic fitness to do the job necessary.”
A year on, it’s a much happier story inside the England dressing room. “Everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet,” says Gunn. “Everyone is working hard and we can see the benefit. We’ve played in some really hot and humid conditions in the West Indies and Abu Dhabi, and I don’t think we would have been able to perform to as a high a level as we have a year ago.”
Taylor has played 101 ODIs for England so far, averaging 40 with five centuries, and is widely acknowledged as one of the most talented to have played the game. In form, she could make all the difference in what promises to be the most hotly contested World Cup ever.
“It will be really competitive,” says Gunn. “There’s more professional teams out there now, and there’ll be added pressure on us because we’re the home team. But we’re fitter than we ever have been, and smarter as well. We’re coming into the World Cup at just the right time.”
Jenny Gunn is a supporter of the TeamUp initiative, a three-year campaign from England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), England Hockey and England Netball to maximise the legacy of three home World Cups, build a fan base for women’s team sports and ensure all 7 to 13 year-old girls have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of team sport in school.