Perhaps she can listen to Michael Jackson’s Earth Song everyday. She can rave about the tireless Kate Cross endlessly so.
She might disagree-if not argue- with those who dislike The Shawshank Redemption. She has no problems in doing multiple rounds of the gym on a single day. Moreover, she doesn’t dread going through the painfully correct tedium of participating in fielding drills. She can read any Grisham thriller you put in front of her, though would love to pick The Innocent Man any day. Finally, she has no problems at all in admitting that Sandra Bullock is better looking then her, this is when there countless Facebook groups created in awe of her looks.
But she does have a problem. She cannot take compliments.
In fact, in a 2019 interview in a city as fast-paced as her lightening-fast reflexes, Mumbai, she admitted, “I’m horrible at accepting compliments!”
Going on to further express her difficulty, she’d remark, “I don’t know how to deal with compliments, with accepting that I’m the best, as they say!”
Though, what, doesn’t-and hasn’t bothered her- is that central factor that made Sarah Taylor second to none and truth be told, inimitable in Cricket.
For nearly a decade and a half, until the end of her career, Sarah Taylor found not the slightest of difficulty in standing up to the wickets, whether to fast bowlers or spinners, medium pacers or pure quicks.
Must it be mentioned, lest one takes it lightly, she’s stood up to the stumps to all-time English legends in Katherine Brunt and the foxy Jenny Gunn and seamers like few others in the game- Laura Marsh and Isa Guha.
In a sport often partially described as the batsman’s game, only for the willow-wielders to find themselves yorked, spun out, subjected to chin music with bowlers fighting out ever so constantly, Sarah Taylor made a case for wicket-keeping to be taken seriously.
Standing up to the stumps in Sarah Taylor’s world wasn’t just a technique that signalled bravery and intent to plot a batter’s downfall, rather an attitude in life that’s called being forward-looking, being unbothered by the past or lost opportunities.
It is only now where one of Whitechapel’s finest exports to the gentleman’s game is no longer around for national duties that one may regard Sarah Taylor’s 128 catches and 104 stumpings, which to some would surely have read a normal statistical reading, when the efforts were a result of unending love for the game and ultra competitiveness.
The latter of which was evident from the time Sarah Taylor first stepped onto the 22 yards of a Test match pitch, circa August 8, 2006, doing little wonders with both bat and keeping gloves, but indicating prowess in both in little flashes instantly.
Following a score of 1 in the first inning at Leicester with a gritty 28 in the second innings, a knock laced with 5 expressive boundaries, Sarah Taylor didn’t waste any moment to prove she was here to do somethings with the bat as well, whilst much of the attention rested on her keeping, her debut game against India producing a solitary catch.
But nearly fourteen and a half years after that balmy English August day where one gazes at a career that had both- boundless passion and tons of excitement for the game- does one realise that, that 17-year-old kid sits atop a legacy that would compel a new kid on the block as also a legend to join hands in admiration.
For it’s not the mind-boggling numbers Taylor achieved playing the game with freewheeling love but the anxieties and stresses she battled all along to end up achieving what she eventually did: 6,500 international runs, punctuated by 7 centuries and 36 fifties.
In an age where perhaps neither the cricketers nor their fans spend a day without seeing or posting a video on social media about pumping iron, lifting heavyweights, doing the benchpresses and flexing it out in some form of the other, Sarah Taylor emerged as a stark reminder to focus on the mental side of things.
What she’s done for England, and in turn, for the game in general, is beyond great and worthy of appreciation from all quarters. But what will always quiz the intrepid lover of the game will be what all might she have achieved had the battles with anxieties not had happened in the first place.
Though the Sarah Taylor story, one filled with numerable records that seem like compelling certificates on an employee-resume, goes beyond the achievements on the pitch.
And achievements, there are many- 1872 of her 4000 plus ODI runs came through hits to the fence. An ODI strike rate of 82 fares higher than a troika of timeless heroes of the women’s game- Bismah Maroof, Suzie Bates, and even Stafanie Taylor.
For someone who arrived as a teenager under the warm tutelage of Charlotte Edwards but left as an inspiration for a young brigade of bankable English talents, whether one speaks of Sarah Glenn, Sophie Ecclestone, Amy Jones, or Mady Villers, Sarah Taylor has inspired and done very little to boast about things when she had all the right to do so.
Not presiding over a massively successful Test run, when the right hander could’ve resorted to disappointment, she chose to make herself count in white-ball cricket, becoming among the most destructive and feared competitors in the game that had no dearth of fierce talents, such as a Lanning, Dottin, Mandhana, du Preez, Mir, Atapattu, Healy, Mooney, and Lizelle Lee, to quote just a few.
Yet, Sarah Taylor’s finest contribution to the game is that despite battling anxiety, which eventually bettered her career, she didn’t give in.
It’s one thing to sit back and gather the world’s sympathies toward your suffering. But it takes a lot of courage to speak about it, accept an anomaly, and moreover, reach out to the world to generate awareness about an issue that’s become a predicament of god knows how many in this social-media driven, controversy-fuelled, troll-powered age of insular personalities.
An age where people hardly have time for the other but have all the hours in the world to hang out on gadgets, making love to AI caring little to appreciate the truth that what’s artificial can only be intelligent to an extent and that real intelligence spreads when needful conversations happen.
Exactly the kinds that Sarah Taylor is doing through Awesome Minds, a mental-health awareness charity she co-founded and is doing great work toward.
That she’s back on the pitch, despite dealing with scuffles that she perhaps would have grown used to, is absolutely brilliant news for everybody. For someone who’s currently stoking Welsh Fire and with the same purposefulness with which she catapulted England into being a world-beating side, Sarah Taylor has proven that glory lies not merely in standing up to the stumps.
But actually it lies in charging down the pitch and setting an example out of the stadia, which to a great extent she was responsible for running in packed capacities given her exhilarating skills and ‘never-say-die’ attitude.