Taylor optimistic after challenging year
Sarah Taylor has declared that she is “back, and ready to face the World Cup and the scrutiny that professional sport brings,” after taking a year-long break from the game to combat an anxiety condition.
Taylor, who is widely recognised as one of the most naturally talented female cricketers of her generation, took an indefinite break from cricket in the aftermath of last year’s World T20 in India. However, she was last week included in England’s 15-strong squad for the Women’s World Cup, which gets underway in just under a month’s time.
Her inclusion followed a successful reintegration into the England set-up during a recent training camp in the UAE, where she took the field in a practice match against Ireland, scoring 26 not out in the second of three warm-up wins.
“It’s been a tough 12 months and lots has been learned in that time,” Taylor said in an interview arranged by the ECB. “In terms of where I am with my cricket, I’m incredibly comfortable to be back playing and the girls have been absolutely brilliant. It’s just nice to be back around them and the fact that the World Cup is at home as well makes it extra special. To be back in time for the World Cup has been a hard journey but very worth it so far.”
Prior to her diagnosis, Taylor’s condition was so acute at times that she found herself running off the field of play to be sick, while she also struggled with day-to-day issues such as taking public transport. A course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helped her to overcome many of the most debilitating traits of her illness, although she does accept that the pressures and scrutiny of a home World Cup campaign will bring a whole new challenge.
“I don’t think we can shy away from the fact that in a World Cup there will be pressure,” she said. “Through what I’ve dealt with over the last 12 months I feel like I’m probably mentally strong enough to deal with those pressures. All I want to do is help someone else get through it, so I don’t think I’m any different to anyone else.
“To be honest, when I took that break I didn’t look too far ahead. I couldn’t. I was always told to not look too far in the future, to take it day by day and as it comes. Literally getting out of bed was the highlight of a day and then accept that doing something brilliant might mean walking outside, that was a tick in the box.
“To look towards the World Cup never even got into my head, it was never something I was striving for at the time, then all of a sudden I found myself wanting to train again and, like I said before, it actually benefitted my day-to-day learnings and my anxiety through that. Next thing I knew I was on a plane going to Abu Dhabi and that was a very last-minute decision.
Looking ahead to the World Cup itself, Taylor Is in no doubt about the team’s overall aim for the tournament. “Ultimately you want to win the tournament, don’t you?” she said. “But for me it’s literally just a case of day-by-day assessing where I am – anxiety-wise, cricket-wise, everything in my head. If not, what can we do to help me get through a training session, a game, everything like that.
“My success, from a very personal point of view, is obviously to perform and be consistent in my performances but flip that to the mental side of things and it’s about getting through the tour unscathed. I’m realistic that there probably will be some bumps but, actually, if I get through it I should look back and be completely proud of myself for doing it. I’m proud that I’ve even put myself out there to do it. I want to win as much as the next person – and I’m hoping that there’ll be success with my own mental health and we can see a trophy at the same time.”