Sarah Taylor Interview: ‘It’s An Exciting Time’

Sarah Taylor catches up with All Out Cricket during an eventful winter for her and for women’s cricket generally.

After an off-season that saw her become the first woman to play men’s first grade cricket in Australia and take part in the first-ever, record-smashing Women’s Big Bash, Sarah Taylor is now in South Africa with the England squad. As she prepares for the team’s ODI and T20 series there – the first under new coach Mark Robinson, and for the newly formed Women’s Cricket Super League – due in England in 2016 – she caught up with Ed Kemp.

Men’s Grade Cricket

Your debut in Australian men’s first grade cricket for Northern Districts in Adelaide certainly attracted headlines. How was it?

I never expected there to be so much hype. I tried to ignore it but you can’t a lot of the time, it’s just there, but it was brilliant, the interest in it. It probably made me a little bit more nervous than I thought it would be! But looking back on it I really enjoyed it.

What were your highlights?

Taking my first catch was a good moment and I will always remember the banter. I’ve made some lifelong friends; I rekindled a friendship with Joe Gatting who I went to school with. Half the team was English, so I felt quite at home, which was nice. They were a good bunch. Mark Cosgrove I got to know really well, and all the Aussie guys were great, they were tough, and treated me like one of the lads – I was just another cricketer to them, they didn’t care and they didn’t tiptoe around me. Yes, you want there to be hype about women playing and representing women’s sport, but actually when people don’t care that’s a nice feeling – it’s just, ‘Yep, another player, next?’

What did you learn from it, if anything?

The main learning was keeping based. I don’t stand back that much in the women’s game, so part of my development as a keeper is to get as good at standing back as I am at standing up. It taught me a lot about my movement sideways and the positions I get into standing back. In the women’s game standing back I don’t pronounce myself as much as I do standing up, so that was a really good lesson, to come back and try and address that. I learned a lot and I had fun doing it, so that was the whole point really.

The Women’s Big Bash League

The WBBL proved a real success in conjunction with the men’s tournament, with unprecedented crowds and TV audiences. Did it exceed your expectations?

I didn’t have any expectations! I’d never been part of something like that before – everything was new and exciting. Looking back, the whole tournament was a huge success. The numbers watching, the fact it went from Channel One to Channel Ten, that showed the success of it. From a personal point of view and for my team the Adelaide Strikers, we probably let ourselves down a little bit, but it was an exciting tournament and we loved every minute of it.

We were very much included under the umbrella ‘Team Striker’, we weren’t just the women’s team, we were incorporated in all of it. That was brilliant – the support was great and there was a real interest and support between the men’s and women’s teams. It was a great thing to be a part of. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to do it again.

Were you aware of how much attention the competition was receiving?

I didn’t realise the extent of the interest from people until about halfway through when we played New Year’s Eve against the Perth Scorchers and 11,000 people came to watch us. For women’s domestic cricket! Our game finished two hours before the men started, so the fact that there were 11,000 people there at that time… it hit me in the face, the love of cricket out there, the love of women’s cricket. There were a quarter of a million people watching our game on TV, when everybody was expecting maybe 50-60,000. Those numbers speak for themselves.

How did the standard of cricket compare both to English domestic cricket and to the international game?

If you’ve got fewer teams and lots of international players then naturally it will be better than domestic cricket back home. You do still get players in the team who maybe aren’t as quick as what you’d have in an international team, so you can say that the standard is below international cricket. So it’s somewhere between. It was extremely tough cricket, you’d give everything, and be shattered after it. And sometimes you’d have another game straight after. So the scheduling was tough, I don’t know if they’ll look at that for next year. But it’s definitely between; it’s not as good as international cricket but definitely better than domestic stuff back home.

The Women’s Cricket Super League

This year English cricket will be offering something similar with the launch of the Women’s Cricket Super League. What have you made of what’s come out about that initiative so far?

Obviously the whole point of it is to try and bridge that gap between domestic cricket and international cricket and lessening the number of teams and players the standard will naturally go up. You’d like to think it will be on a par with the standard of the WBBL. A lot of other countries around the world are already interested, it’s already got the hype that the WBBL had when it started enquiring about players. The scheduling was tough in the WBBL, but you’d hope the interest would be the same and I hope the standard would be as well. So while you don’t want tournaments to be too similar, you’ve got to be realistic about the way tournament cricket is played, and hopefully it will be just as successful as the WBBL.

With six new team hosts being created (unlike the BBL, separate from an established men’s set-up) you’re yet to find out which team you’ll be playing for…

Yeah! We’re all talking about it. It’s quite exciting to find out who you’re playing with and against – you’ve got no idea really. So it’s quite nice, we’re all trying to figure out who’s going where.

In Australia the women’s teams are on the back of the men’s teams and the established franchises, whereas in England our hosts are completely separate to anything, and you never know, it might build for the men’s… But if we can build a solid tournament that’s got standalone hosts just for women’s cricket and make a success out of that, then that’s probably even better than having joined a men’s franchise.

I know that it’s going to be a lot of hard work – and I don’t think anyone’s going to get it right first time, so we’ve got to give ourselves the leeway for things to go wrong and be learned from. By no means will it be the finished article this year, we’ve just got to keep pushing to make it the best tournament in the cricket world over the next few years. It’s an exciting time.

England meet the coach

You and the England squad are out in South Africa for your first tour under new coach Mark Robinson. How’s it going?

I guess like anything, new faces mean a fresh start, it’s a bit of a blank canvas, everything he doesn’t is new for us. He’s very keen on us having down time, having the afternoons and evening to ourselves. I’d like to think that he’s just sparked something in us. I’ve heard so many good things about him and to experience it myself has been really exciting. There’s a new energy about things and the girls have been loving every minute of it, he’s introducing new things, encouraging that freedom to go out and express yourself. It’s been really good – and it’s only been a few days!

Is this tour – which includes three ODIs and three T20Is – more about development under the new coach, or results on the pitch?

We haven’t spoken too much about targets, it’s just getting used to his coaching methods, but it goes without saying you’re here to perform.

We’re still playing for points in the ICC Women’s Championship, and we’ve not had the best run so we need to perform in those, and the T20 games we’ll all be playing for places in the World T20. We don’t know what the starting XI is going to be! It’s quite exciting! We’re loving how Mark’s going about things at the moment and the people he’s brought in [Ian Salisbury and Alastair Maiden]. The sky’s the limit at the moment and hopefully we’ll benefit from that.

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