Sarah Taylor on the cusp of winning her 100th ODI cap for England: Sarah Taylor is a gem among stones. In a sport which has been predominantly ruled by men since time immemorial, the 26 year old England international has carved her niche with unrivalled proficiency and matchless zeal. Come February 12 and the Sussex wicket-keeper will don the England ODI jersey for a hundredth time when England Women will square off against their South African counterparts in the second ODI of the 3 match series at the Super Sport Park in Centurion.
Taylor made her international debut at the tender age of 16 in the first game of the two-match Test series between the English eves and India Women at LORD’S in August 2006. Ten years have passed since then and Sarah has grown from strength to strength as is evident from her tally of over 5,000 runs in international cricket. In fact she has captured several accolades in her decade spanning career. She happens to be the youngest woman cricketer to have surpassed the 1000 run mark in ODIs, the sole recipient of two ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year awards in T20Is, a winner of the ICC Women’s ODI Cricketer of the Year award in 2014 and a triumphant member of two World Cup winning England teams which clinched the ICC Cricket World Cup and the ICC World T20 in 2009.
The game of willow and cork demands two basic skills in technique and temperament from its practitioners, irrespective of their gender. The ocular globes of sports fanatics in general have grown accustomed to the exhibition of disparate feminism by the likes of Serena Williams, Alex Morgan and Yelena Isinbayeva.
Taylor in many ways is a blend of all the aforementioned sportspersons. She brings to the park the sheer swiftness of an Isinbayeva, times the ball with the kind of grace attributed to Morgan and when needed, bludgeons the ball with the sort of brute force that one would associate with Serena’s prowess in the tennis court.
Resuming the discussion on the series to be played in the Rainbow nation, the forthcoming contest between England Women and South Africa Women will mark the beginning of the tenure of Mark Robinson; who was appointed as the coach of England Women by the ECB late last year. The series will feature three ODIs and two T20Is and will be an acid test for both teams prior to the initiation of the ICC World T20 which will kick start in another 2 months’ time. The 15- player English squad will be led by experienced campaigner Charlotte Edwards who has come under fire in recent times owing to her captaincy. The English players were drubbed at the hands of arch rivals Australia in the Women’s Ashes on English soil last year, for which Edwards’ dexterity as Captain has come under the scanner. But, Robinson is highly puffed up with his new assignment. ‘’I can’t wait to get going with the players in South Africa. Having started to work with some of them, having watched recent footage and through following the progress of those playing in the (rebel) Women’s Big Bash League, there’s no doubt that this is a hugely talented squad with enormous potential’’, said Robinson who had previously been in charge of the ECB National Academy. He further added, ‘’I am relishing the prospect of helping them unearth even more of that potential and to seeing them develop in their next chapter as professional cricketers. The ICC Women’s Championship table is currently very tight so the next 12 months are vitally important for us. We need to hit the ground running in the three ODIs against South Africa, who we know will pose a strong challenge on home soil. I am excited to see what this England team can do’’. Interestingly, while the female cricketers will be busy sweating out under the unabated rays of the sun, their male compatriots will also be seen locking horns with one another in the Men’s ODI series in South Africa.
22 players have managed to appear in over 100 ODIs in the history of Women’s cricket with England’s Charlotte Edwards sitting on the top of the table with 188 appearances. Barring Edwards, four other English women cricketers have been able to attain this distinct feat. After Charlotte Edwards (188 ODIs), JL Gunn (126 ODIs), Lydia Greenway (124 ODIs), Jane Smit (109) and Claire Taylor (105 ODIs), Sarah will become the sixth English woman cricketer to represent her nation in over hundred One-dayers.
Sarah is currently ranked 2nd in the ICC ODI Rankings for women and 3rd in the ICC T20I Rankings for Women. A tidy ‘woman’ behind the stumps, Sarah has effected 62 dismissals in 71 T20Is and 111 dismissals in 98 ODIs. That is as good as any you will find in Men’s cricket. The swift keeper is also a prolific batter having notched up 3218 runs in ODIs and 1805 runs in T20Is.
She scripted history by becoming the first woman cricketer to play men’s grade cricket when she represented Northern Districts against Port Adelaide in South Australia’s men’s tournament at Salisbury Oval in 2015. Her accomplishment at the highest level of the game reaffirms the notion that gender can never be a barrier, a hindrance to success in any field. An epitome of hard-work and perseverance, Taylor has set a template which ought to be modelled by the subsequent generations.
She is a lethal combination of beauty with brains like several other women but inimitable at the same time for the brain she possesses is an astute cricket brain.