Posted by: tootingtrumpet | January 15, 2013

Woman Power – Sarah Taylor at Sussex and a possible future

STThere was a time when women’s cricket – what little we saw – didn’t look right. The players didn’t look like athletes, they played in skirts – skirts with kick-pleats – and the game seemed slow and, well, not very good. This was about the same time that (many of) their male counterparts didn’t look like athletes, played in elasticated waist trousers and the game seemed slow and, well, not very good. As the beer and bellies disappeared from the men’s game, the women started to wear sports kit, train like professionals (and soon became professionals) and their game looked fast and, well, very good. In the vanguard of that change, the youngest of the big name England players is Sarah Taylor – wicketkeeper, batter and, just maybe, icon. Because Ms Taylor may be about to play for Sussex.

Will she be the only woman to play professional men’s cricket? (For there’ll surely be an appearance now won’t there?) Are her skills uniquely suited to crossing a divide that few sports breach – for good, but often not so good, reason? How will she perform?

Sarah Taylor is a dazzlingly skillful wicket-keeper (even if her brilliance may be shining slightly less brightly now she has enhanced batting responsibilities in the England team). Her hands are swift, with the ball melting into the gloves as it does for the best keepers. Her footwork is quick and accurate and gets her head into the right position to give her the balance that is the underpinning of sound technique in any sport. She has something of her namesake Bob Taylor and the peerless Alan Knott about her – born keepers, all three, not biffing batsmen with gloves on (she is, in this sense, an anti-Matthew Wade, admirable player though he is).

But can she bat at Eight in county cricket? Why not? Shiv Chanderpaul’s slight frame and ability to cut, drive and deflect the ball into empty spaces has garnered over 10000 Test runs with just one six every seven innings; VVS Laxman hit just 5 sixes in 225 Test innings, and he was pretty good too. Weight of shot – though obviously useful – is not the only way to score, even in these accelerated times. Could Ms Taylor take on the mantle of the gifted timer of a cricket ball from VVS or the quirkiest of nurdlers from Shiv? Almost impossible! But we’ve heard that before in sport.

If Ms Taylor does hold her own at Sussex, even in the Second XI, expect others to follow, most likely in the form of the game gushing with testosterone – Twenty20. No, I haven’t lost my mind, forecasting a female Keiron Pollard or female Chris Gayle (he’d quite like one of those I suspect) – here’s how it would work. Batting at 11 in T20 is as close to irrelevant as makes no difference, so teams can afford to play one or two pure bowlers. And what type of bowling works best in T20? Canny slow stuff, giving no pace to the batsmen, varying flight, pace and revs on the ball. Watch women’s cricket and there are plenty of bowlers doing exactly this, with trajectories that one seldom sees in men’s cricket, the ball sometimes appearing to stop in the air, so tortured is it’s journey to the other end.

Somewhere, there’s a Chris(tine) Harris who will deliver spells of 4-0-26-1 consistently in the middle overs of a T20 match. And where she bowls, others will follow.

You can tweet me @garynaylor999

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Responses

  1. It’s interesting that you use the term professionals, Gary. The strain at the heart of women’s cricket, in England and globally, is exactly that. Professionalism.

    I hope what you describe is a way forward, I really do, because currently women’s cricket at the top level is professional in lifestyle–the players really do, and are expected to, devote their lives to working on their game–but it is not professional financially.

    A few England women are lucky enough to be paid to coach cricket, through Chance to Shine. And this is a wonderful thing, although it’s not a career and only wishful thinking would lead you to think it can become one. But the vast majority of top-level women cricketers, in England and especially globally, are not paid enough to make a career in the game. They must be professional athletes but in amateur circumstances.

    This isn’t the fault of the women, who are wonderfully skilled, and it’s only broadly the fault of administrators. It is the fault of audiences who don’t tune in or turn up to the women’s game, for sure, because the money would be there if the audiences were.

    I love women’s cricket and am grateful to all those in the game who boost it when they can. I trust that it does eventually have a bright future. But until it represents a career for those who play it, it will always lag behind, even as entertainment, because it won’t attract the best or motivate them sufficiently to achieve.

    Oh well, I live in hope. I certainly live in hope to Sarah Taylor play first-class cricket. What a treat that would be, not just for her gender but for her keeping. Even if it is for Sussex.

  2. I think that the way the world is these days “a career” is fast becoming meaningless. One will do things for which one is paid and other things for which one is not and balance the two across a lifetime.

    The best women in England make a living from the game, if not solely from its playing and there aren’t many women playing team sports anywhere in the world who can say that. But the times, they are achangin’

  3. Good article TT. Worth noting that weight of shot becomes a lot easier with weight of ball too. I saw in person/streamed a couple of Australian/Victorian games this year and there is nothing technically wrong, nor do they lack for time – though Taylor will need to adjust for pace even in the seconds. That said, a little extra challenge could help too. Watching Meg Lanning tear it up this season (9 inn, 635 @ 70.5 S/R 118 2 50s 2 100s in 50 over cricket) and as often as not she gets out to slogs that indicate a little too much time, and a little too much ease with the bowler. If a female player has the talent to find gaps – I’ve not seen much of Taylor, but Lanning has that in spades – stepping up a level might make things easier, physically and mentally.

    • Extra pace is usually a boon to the best bats, you’re right. Some women return the man’s serve better than the woman’s in mixed doubles tennis.

  4. […] suggesting that she could revolutionise and specialise the role of wicketkeeper in T20 cricket. At 99.94, the author argues that Taylor could be merely the first women out of many to play in the […]


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