In another universe, these five cricketers are the backbone of the England Test team.Continue reading
In another universe, these five cricketers are the backbone of the England Test team.Continue reading
If James Taylor’s public pronouncements betray an admirable desire to retain a sense of humour about things, his retirement from cricket at the age of just 26 due to arrhythmogenic right ventricular arrhythmia is anything but funny.
It’s easy to point to his having had a job as a professional cricketer as a means of highlighting how others may have it tougher, but at heart we’re all selfish bastards. We only truly know the life we lead and Taylor’s life has just turned down a very unexpected dead end.
You make plans, you work towards things and that’s what keeps you sane. It’s not the goals themselves that matter, but finding purpose in striving for them. With his destination obliterated, a man could quite easily find himself derailed. Throw in a serious heart condition and pessimism could become a default emotion.
A high-achieving cricketer’s sense of self is greatly bound up with the game. You are a cricketer. You are a batsman. You score runs. It’s not just what you do, it’s who you are. James Taylor is no longer that and when your occupation has been so all-consuming, how much room was there for anything else? It may be just a game, but a game can be everything and people feel the impact when everything is snatched from them in an instant.
Taylor will eventually be able to redirect his energy and pursue different things, coaxing his mind back to normal in the process – we’re sure of that. As for the heart condition, he is set to undergo an operation. His retirement from the game makes it clear that this will not be a cure in the fullest sense, but it will, presumably, improve his physical health.
James Taylor retires from cricket with the fourth-highest one-day batting average of all time. Decent player and, by all accounts, a decent bloke. The latter is something he can continue to be, no matter what he does next.
Based on their returns in this series, many are calling for some combination of Alex Hales, Nick Compton and James Taylor to be dropped. Then again, based on their returns in this series it’s equally valid to suggest that Alastair Cook and James Anderson should be dropped.
It’s almost as if four Tests aren’t quite enough to fully gauge the worth of a cricketer. You might be forming an opinion about each of them, but why the need to commit to deeming that particular shade of grey to be either black or white? It seems like firm opinions are everything these days. You have to commit to a position.
After four Tests in a series against England in 2004, AB de Villiers had made just the one fifty – the same as Hales, Compton and Taylor have managed. De Villiers then made 92 and 109 in the fifth Test.
While there’s no universally agreed upon acceptable timespan for gauging the worth of a Test cricketer, it’s also worth noting that Steve Smith and Kane Williamson averaged 29 and 30 respectively after 11 Tests. The former wasn’t even considered a batsman.
Hashim Amla, another one of the best batsmen in the world, was averaging just 25 after the first 15 Tests of his career (and had generally looked a great deal worse than that). That’s a sizeable sample, but he got better. He’s great precisely because of how he responded to what confronted him, adapting his technique and approach based on his experiences.
Can you react and adapt within a four-Test series comprising two sets of back-to-back Tests? For once we’ll spurn grey areas and say no.
Sky just broadcast a slow-mo of James Taylor plucking the ball out of his arse. That’s what it looked like anyway. Kneeling down, he reached behind him and lo, there it was.
South Africa were doubtless already wary of Taylor’s short leg fielding after a couple of shots ended up in his hands off the face of the bat in the previous Test. Apparently it’s not just his hands you need to worry about though.
On this occasion, Taylor saw Dean Elgar shaping to clip the ball to leg and, predicting the path of the ball, scuttled across to cover it in the style of Doctor Zoidberg. Presenting his disproportionately massive cojones as some sort of target, he then took the catch via thigh, midriff and possibly even ankle as his legs clamped around the ball. He then retrieved it from its fleshy prison between his legs as a final flourish.
Taylor may be small, but as we all know, things seem much larger when they’re up close. He’s hard to ignore at short leg and as an opposition batsman, it must be tempting to simply rule out the quarter of the field that lies beyond him.
Back in August, Stuart Broad tore Australia a new one. But that was last year. How many new ones had he torn in 2016? Not a single one. Disgraceful.
He doubtless wanted to address this grave situation in South Africa’s first innings, but was apparently struck down by the wild shits – or at least something approaching it. At the time, the commentators seemed uncertain what impact this might have on his performance. Even just asking the question indicated that they were preposterously ill-informed. Anyone who has experienced this notorious ailment knows that it is marginally more debilitating than having a broken spine.
Fortunately, recovery is rather more rapid and by South Africa’s second innings Broad was okay. Better than okay, in fact. Between his first and fifth wickets, he only conceded a single run. If you’re new to cricket and are only reading this article because you’re interested in sportsmen’s intestinal health, let us tell you that sort of performance is more than handy.
A word for James Taylor’s catching too. He may have only begun fielding at short leg as some sort of sizeist joke by some captain or other, but he’s clearly grown into the job (metaphorically speaking). He’s now so good that it can only be a matter of time before he’s considered a senior player and therefore removed from the position.
Hat tip to Nick Frost for today’s headline by the way. Other suggestions for that final word included ‘Broadsworded’ and ‘Broadsided’. Our own effort – ‘enbroadled’ – goes some way towards explaining why we should probably resort to crowdsourcing headlines more often.
Busy being described as ‘busy’ mostly. The word’s very quickly become a Taylor cliché and today it was used on Sky as early as his first ball – at which point he’d mostly been busy waiting.
What does ‘busy’ mean? As far as we can tell, it means the player in question scores runs without being reliant on a disproportionate number of boundaries or freaky improvised shots. It’s what used to be called ‘being good at batting’.
James Taylor is good at batting. He’s a good-at-batting cricketer. His unique, stand-out quality is apparently that he’s good at batting. Maybe if he could find a way of changing ethnicity, people might start suggesting that he was ‘wristy‘ instead.
England in UAE middle-order partnership shocker. Who’d have Liam Plunkett (thunk it)?
Fours and sixes are all well and good, but it’s important to cater for fans of the nurdle as well. Today was a most nurdlesome day. Nudges, leaves, jabs into the offside, works to the legside – all were on display.
James Taylor showed himself to be impressively nurdle-adept. With England’s batting currently weighted towards bombast, that’s most welcome. Batting line-ups should be like your plate after your first incursion into good buffet territory. You want a bit of everything.
This writer is also rather pleased to see Taylor and Jonny Bairstow making a decent labourers-gloved fist of things. People can sometimes get too clever with their tips for the Test team, picking out whatever second division stylist happens to have made a hundred that day – but it’s clear this pair have been too good for domestic cricket for quite some time now. That should mean something.
Last night, in a dream, someone tried to persuade us that there weren’t many famous people called Jim any more. They wouldn’t accept Jimmy Anderson as a Jim, so we very much doubt we’d have got away with suggesting James Taylor. It was still clearly a sign though.
This article was going to end with a bit about why it was the right time to pick James Taylor and how continually overlooking him up until now has helped build inner steel and and indomitable spirit. Turns out we wrote that article last year. Have a read.
It’s hard to argue that this wasn’t the perfect England one-day performance. One, England won, which satisfied most of their fans; and two, there was enough evidence to suggest that England will never win one-day games with Alastair Cook at the helm, which will have satisfied his detractors.
The ideal scenario is for England to win the World Cup with Cook really not having pulled his weight but somehow still in the team. Today, he made 20 off 30 balls. Neither quick- nor heavy-scoring, it was pretty much the perfect Cook one-day innings. He was even dismissed playing a defensive shot to howls of derision from some place and some other place.
James Taylor replaced him at the crease and played really rather well. This means it’s quite possible to use the argument that Cook is keeping ‘players like James Taylor’ out of the side, even if he isn’t currently keeping your actual real-life James Taylor out of the side.
Next Joe Root scored a hundred, which is neither here nor there in itself, but did at least distract attention from Chris Woakes’ 6-47. Woakes loves being overshadowed and will have been delighted to have taken six wickets in a one-day game which largely took place on an entirely different day.
These aren’t even Woakes’ best one-day figures. He once took 6-45 against Australia, in Australia. But no-one remembers. In fact, Woakes has two of England’s three best one-day bowling performances of all time (behind Paul Collingwood). This latest effort has been sufficient to see him talked about as being someone who might possibly challenge Steven Finn for a World Cup spot. Great praise indeed.
For if Finn no longer looks like a man who has forgotten how to bowl, he does still give off the air of not yet having fully remembered. At his best, Finn looks stern and driven, but at present we find ourself getting distracted by how much he looks like he’s made out of uncooked spaghetti. That may or may not be the effect he’s trying to produce, so it’s hard to judge his progress. Assuming it is, we’ll give him 10/10 and Woakes 3/10 because the latter didn’t really look at all brittle.
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.
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.
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.
You wait and wait for a drawing of the diminutive James Taylor batting with gangletastic Will Jefferson and then you get two in two days.
Angy was responsible for this one:
Hope everyone’s starting to get a decent sense of just how small James Taylor is. Sorry if it’s still not clear. We’re not sure Will Jefferson’s the best unit of measurement.
When you measure things in terms of double decker buses or football fields, it’s usually because they’re big. Saying that James Taylor is the same size as 0.6 Will Jeffersons doesn’t convey scale in quite the same way.