James Taylor, irritation and entitlement

The optimum moment to select a batsman is not when he thinks he deserves a place in the side; it’s when he’s completely irritated because he can’t quite believe he isn’t getting a game. This is probably the main difference between James Taylor now and a few years ago.

Taylor himself will probably say that he’s exactly the same player, which only goes to show how people tend to imagine that past versions of themselves had all the attitudes and accumulated wisdom of their current self. For once, we might be better able to judge a player from the outside.

Then and now

The Taylor selected for Test cricket in 2012 was skilful and ineffectual. He looked good at the crease, but he wasn’t even making runs in the second division. He’s gone from there to being someone who makes runs in the first division and who has also had to keep elevating his one-day performances to ever-greater heights simply to earn consideration.

Doubtless you’ll have read it elsewhere, but Taylor has the third-highest List-A average of all-time. (It’s also worth noting that another of England’s fringe one-day players, Gary Ballance, is seventh on that list, while Jonathan Trott is 22nd – one place below Phil Hughes.) Taylor has also made four million runs for the England Lions (you can have that stat for free).

Point is, Taylor’s not the same player and even if he doesn’t consciously know that, his subconscious must. It’s the difference between kneeling, eyes down, to graciously accept your Test cap from the selectors and angrily snatching a set of one-day pyjamas off them with a stroppy ‘about bloody time’. The first guy’s going to be overawed. The second guy’s far too busy grumbling to have time to think what international cricket might mean to him.

The second guy scores more runs.

Earning your place

There’s perhaps a lesson here relating to entitlement, because if lack of support can build an indomitable spirit, there is also a corollary of that. If you build up a particular player – it doesn’t matter who or why – and give him any kind of notion whatsoever that his selection is about anything other than performance, you inadvertently steal away his utter certainty that he belongs.

The player in question might retain a bullish, outwardly confident exterior, but that is perhaps less a manifestation of true confidence and more an attempt to fight back understandable doubts. One of the great things about cricket is that it has little time for people who merely talk a good game. You can’t hear uncertainty in a press conference, but you can easily read it on a scorecard.

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23 Appeals

  1. I’m glad that Taylor made the most of his chance. Odds are that when Cook comes back into the side he’ll be warming the bench once again. Frankly his insistence on scoring a shed load of runs is against the MCC’s ODI coaching manual. Frankly Moeen Ali should be ashamed that he’s lasted this many games with his can-do attitude.

  2. Of course! This has been the ECB’s plan all along! When it really matters, they’ll drop Cook from the opener’s slot, and Hales/Lumb/whoever will be annoyed enough that they’ll come in and score a bundle!

    When will it really matter, you say? Well, not the World Cup, obviously. Piffling little trophy like that.

  3. Well put, KC, excellent article. The mid-life crisis for sportsmen – the point where the natural drive that put them where they are is no longer necessary to sustain them in that position.

    The trouble is that every last person at the ECB is a seeker of comfort, a nice soft cushion to carry them into retirement. So they create a situation in which that ease of life is inherent in the system. The goal is to create a team where nobody is dropped ever, because they are all always good enough. But as you say, they miss the point that for a professional sportsman, this is a contradiction.

    • Also, by creating a system that values finding young players early and promoting them through the system you essentially say to any player who matures later that they have no chance of ever being considered regardless of actual achievement.

      This results in a system that considers Shane Watson (20 1st class centuries) a better prospect as a test opener than Chris Rogers (71 1st Class centuries).

  4. Fair enough, this James Taylor is going to have to repeat this kind of performance sufficiently right now if they’re to retain their position in this team despite past work for or in the England international set-up.

  5. I like reading about other people and enjoyed a good part of this article. But then the last paragraph sort of eerily leaked out of the domain of cricket and seemed to ask questions about our own selves. I don’t know what to feel anymore. Can someone tell me how I should be feeling right about now? Please?

    • King Cricket

      December 8, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      You’re meant to be feeling confident that you can do a decent job batting at three despite your diminutive stature.

    • Thank you, KC. I am now confident enough to tear the arm off someone who’d hand me my test cap. And then violate them with it. I think I finally understand the point of this article.

    • Laurence Elderbrook springs to mind for some reason.

  6. Good on him, the tiny little Judas.

    I hope he enjoys playing with his backstabbing chums Broad and Gurney.

    Not bitter.

  7. This is all very well, but I think we know the real reason for little James’ sudden success. It’s the little beard.

    https://twitter.com/ECB_cricket/status/541972819664715776/photo/1

    • King Cricket

      December 8, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      The Beard That’s Weird.

    • Not sure they’re ‘mirin, Joe.

    • Or James.

    • Are we sure it’s not the eyebrows? Those bad boys could give Hales’ a run for their money.

    • Cricinfo commentary on NZ’s Anton Devcich: “That beard.. it’s awesome. Is there a better beard than Devcich’s in world cricket at the moment?”

      So that’s what Taylor has to beat.

    • Imagine James Taylor with a Hashim Amla beard. It would come down to his knees. Where’s Ceci and her photoshop skills when you need them?

    • I’m sorry, but as a well-known sporter of the modest beard, I object strongly to that description of James Taylor’s facial bum-fluff. We must maintain definitional standards in this matter.

      No wonder Leicestershire is up shit creek without a paddle-sweep, Daneel. What do you feed to infants in your native county, for goodness sake?

    • Facial hair is just wrong. I’ve been to two places where the majority of the men had facial hair –

      1. The Pink Oboe Bar on Canal Street, Manchester
      2. America

      Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against anyone’s lifestyle choices. If a man wants to be American that’s up to him, no matter how disturbing it might seem. But just consider the two most famous people with facial hair – George Michael and Freddie Mercury. The link? They both spent a considerable amount of time in America.

      Is that what James Taylor really wants, to look like a great big American? If so he’s going the right way about it.

    • Ged – not enough, clearly. I worry that if I met James Taylor I’d discover he’s taller than me. Depends if he’s really 5’6″ or not. I’ve heard that’s optimistic.

  8. A different Pete

    December 9, 2014 at 10:00 am

    I thought this was going to be a review of a new Christmas album “Irritation and Entitlement” by the smug singer/songwriter of the same name. Oh well.

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