We live in a world where people are denied happiness by the cruel twist of fate. James Taylor, 26, a professional cricketer who had made it at county level and broken into the England national team has today announced his retirement from all forms of the game due to a severe heart condition. My thoughts go out to him at this very difficult time.
I’ll always remember watching a discussion about England’s emerging batsmen on Sky Sports last year. I remember James Taylor being dismissed as ‘too small’ to play at international level. Taylor stands at 5ft 6 inches tall – short by cricket standards. How on earth could somebody with such a small stature garner enough power to manoeuvre the ball around a cricket ground?
Taylor had defied the odds to become arguably Nottinghamshire’s best batsman. He was also the captain of the Notts Outlaws T20 Blast side. Consistency was key to Taylor’s success and his calm and balanced outlook allowed him to achieve just that. He was a tonic, in stark contrast to the boastful nature of some modern day cricketers, Taylor remained modest and understated throughout his career. His quiet demeanour meant that he was overlooked for a large part of his career as taller batsmen who were not statistically much better than him, were preferred. Even so, Taylor could not be overlooked for too long and in 2012 he was selected to face South Africa scoring 34 on Test debut.
He played a much larger role in 2015; as England’s number three his contributions with the bat were more significant, scoring 76 and 2 against Pakistan before amassing 70 and 42 against South Africa at the end of 2015. His figures in 2016 do him a disservice, and whilst he never scored an international century, his presence in the side provided England with stability in the number three role which they had lacked since Ian Bell was in his prime. He made the game look easy and never seemed to suffer from the pressure associated with being an international cricketer.
At only 26, Taylor should have had a long time left to prove how good he was to the world. He would have undoubtedly gone on to greater things as one of England’s key batsmen. He was also a fine example of a short leg fielder, his lightening reflexes allowing him to pluck even the most unlikely catches out of the air. The cricketing world has lost one of its most promising players before he really had his time in the spotlight.
The world is a cruel place and the cricketing world will be a much poorer place without James Taylor, affectionately referred to as ‘Titch’ by his team mates. The condition, Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy, caused Fabrice Muamba to collapse during the FA Cup Quarter Final between Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur in 2012. According to the Daily Express, Muamba has recently become a qualified football coach and his most unlikely return to football, albeit in a coaching role, looks set to become reality.
Although I only had the chance to watch Taylor play in the flesh once, I admired his quiet determination and resolve to prove that he was good enough to play at the highest level of his game. He made batting look easy, what he lacked in stature he made up for through a good technique and finesse.
The way Taylor approached cricket should be a lesson to all young aspiring cricketers; that you do not need to be boastful of your talents to succeed. With quiet determination a lot can be achieved. Although one of cricket’s nice guys has had his career cut short, his approach to the game should be set as an example to all. The number of goodwill messages that have flooded the internet are a testament to Taylor’s popularity as one of England’s best cricketers. It is touching, that one of the first to offer their sympathies to James Taylor was Fabrice Muamba, one model professional to another, both with careers cut short by the same cruel condition.
Muamba‘s tweet this morning read ‘
@jamestaylor20 having life is a great option. Retirement is inevitable but for some of us it’s just earlier than expected. Enjoy life’. Although I never got to meet Taylor in person, my thoughts go out to him tonight. I hope his treatment goes well and he finds a place in the cricketing fraternity where he can influence players of the future with his knowledge so that his talent can live on.