Updated: Feb 26
Today we saw over 80,000 fans pack inside the MCG to watch Australia win their 5th T20 World Cup title. In truth, the game was extremely poor, but that shouldn't take away from the occasions, which was fitting considering today is 'International Women's Day'.
With England not being afforded the opportunity to showcase their skills in the final, due to some unfortunate Sydney weather, I thought I'd take this opportunity to celebrate my favourite female cricket of all time. The great Sarah Taylor, who could teach Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler a thing or two about keeping wicket.
Unfortunately for England and for women's cricket in general, Sarah Taylor took the decision to retire in September at just 30 years of age due to an on-going struggle with anxiety. Putting her mental health first, she took the incredibly difficult decision to walk away from a career that still had plenty of stumpings and plenty of runs in it. I have a huge amount of respect for anyone willing to open up and talk about their problems, and to walk away from a game that she obviously loved.
When Sarah retired, she did so as a two-time world cup champion having won the T20 World Cup in 2009 and the ODI World Cup in 2017. During that 2017 tournament, Taylor scored 396 runs at an average of 49.50. I remember watching that world cup and thinking just how lucky we were to be witnessing a team with so much talent, it was Sarah Taylor and Tammy Beaumont that really stood out for the host nation and eventual champions.
Between making her debut for England in 2006, to eventually retiring in 2019, Taylor made 219 appearances for her country, scoring 6,428 runs across all formats and being directly involved in 232 dismissals, a world record for women's cricket. She was named the ICC's best women's T20 cricket on three separate occasions and the best ODI cricketer in 2014. In short, Sarah had the kind of career that most can only dream about, and she did all of this before her 31st birthday.
As someone who loves a good wicket-keeper, my appreciation for Taylor was sky-high already, but it was the 2017 World Cup that really made me appreciate just how good a player she was. After announcing her struggle with anxiety in 2016, she took a break from international cricket. Only a couple of months after returning she was helping England lift the ODI trophy. Her performances in that World Cup, including a terrific 147 against South Africa showed her character, to come back from a break and put in a performance like that, but not just that, to be consistent, well that was something special.
Sarah revolutionised keeping, especially in the women's game. She did things that people had never seen. She was lightning fast, calm, cool under pressure, she made difficult stumpings look routine and she did it all while battling anxiety issues, which she later admitted affected her on-field performance.
Yer she still managed to do things like this:
Sarah Taylor gave us so much. We were fortunate to witness her talent behind the stumps. However, we were also fortunate to see one of the best stroke-players England have ever produced. When Sarah Taylor was on, it was a matter of how many she was going to score. From a silky cover drive to a beautiful ability to clip the ball into the leg-side with ease, watching Sarah was poetry in motion.
It was a privilege to witness, and I have no doubt that she has inspired many young girls and boys to not only get into cricket but to perfect their keeping skills. She's also been an inspiration in speaking up about anxiety, which you can't put a stat to, but is equally as important. She's recently co-founded a mental health charity called Awesome Minds alongside Chris McGarry.
Thank you, Sarah Taylor, for giving us so many incredible memories.