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Taylor-made for success

England's Claire Taylor
Taylor achieved just about everything a player could dream of in 2009

By Aimee Lewis
BBC Sport

On an unseasonably balmy afternoon in Loughborough, Claire Taylor walked around the National Cricket Performance Centre, going from one journalist to the next, with a spring in her step and a smile on her face.

Seven months had passed since the premier batter in the women's game last stood guard at a crease competitively and the 34-year-old, back in her England kit once again, had the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a newly-promoted apprentice.

Taylor, of course, is no newcomer. Many would have understood had she decided to retire from international cricket last season while her star was orbiting some planet inhabited by the cricketing gods.

Instead, she tells BBC Sport of the "promise, the anticipation of being in a high performance environment", adding: "I wanted to prove 2009 wasn't a one-off. There are still things I want to achieve personally and with the team."

Before she runs out for her first practice session with the England squad, however, there is just under an hour or so reserved for media commitments.

You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but the opposition do get used to your style of batting, they figure out your weaknesses, so it's important to make some tweaks here and there

Claire Taylor

Unprecedented publicity follows unprecedented success and, on her return to the international fold after a winter break, everyone wants a word or two with the woman who, last year, made history.

To recap, Claire Taylor MBE became the first woman named as one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year, with the famous Almanack's editor, Scyld Berry, remarking that excluding the right-hander would have been a "sin of omission".

A month earlier, in March, Taylor had played a key role in helping England win the World Cup, and from there triumph after triumph followed as England became double world champions, winning the World Twenty20 in June.

Naturally, Taylor was named player of the tournament in both competitions, and then went on to inspire England to retain the Ashes.

Like most of sport's great achievers, the affable Taylor has stored those accomplishments away in some memory box to be revisited in old age and she is ready to start a new chapter, to reassert England's dominance and to propel the women's game to new heights.

"We need to start pushing ourselves again," Taylor says in the backdrop of Loughborough University's immaculate cricket pitch. "It's time to start the next adventure."

That new era begins this week in the Caribbean where the women will defend their World Twenty20 title.

Taylor is expected to again be the team's leading light as they try to negotiate their way past a taxing group which includes Australia, West Indies and South Africa.

A relatively inexperienced England side had mixed fortunes over the winter, losing in the West Indies and later being beaten by India in the 50-over format before admirably bouncing back to win the end-of-tour Twenty20 series.

Taylor, a player team-mate Ebony Rainford-Brent describes as England's rock, was clearly missed on those tours but the squad is buoyant and the return of their pugnacious batter, and that of wicketkeeper-batsman Sarah Taylor and leg-spinner Holly Colvin, not only boost the camp's confidence, but also their chances of winning in the West Indies.

England's Claire Taylor
Taylor received her MBE at Windsor Castle in February

England coach Mark Lane tells BBC Sport that Taylor has returned to the squad full of "energy and drive" and the player herself says the decision to take a step away from cricket and concentrate on her career as a management consultant has had its benefits.

"It is really great to be back," says Taylor. "I have been training on my own quite a lot this winter so to get back in with the girls, to hear all the jokes, and just start settling down to the team environment is really good.

"It was strange not being part of the team over the winter. I read scorecards, but you don't have any context, you don't really know what's going on - not that I regret my decision.

"I needed time away from the game. I had plenty of work to do so I needed to crack on with that, to catch up on things. I didn't do much work last year because of all the World Cup competitions and the Ashes so to get six months in at work was good for the career.

"I also got to do good physical work so having a rest and having a long timeframe to run into this tour means I'm in better physical condition than I've been in a while.

"I had a lot of niggling injuries, you get smacked in the hand etc, and because of the amount of cricket we play they never really got the chance to heal."

Taylor started working at a performance management consultancy, based at the University of Reading, back in 2006.

CLAIRE TAYLOR RECORD
15 Tests, 1,030 runs, average 41.20, 4x100
114 ODIs, 3,690 runs, average 40.10, 8x100
14 T20s, 442 runs, average 49.11

Her work schedule is flexible but, as she enters the twilight of her cricket career - she believes she has a "couple of seasons left" - the Oxford University mathematics graduate is clearly starting to think about life after cricket.

It does not mean she has lost the focus that made her the leading batter in the women's game. In fact, (and opposition bowlers should perhaps look away now) Taylor, who was once described as having "a cricket brain to die for", spent the winter improving her game.

"I finished the county season in September and didn't pick up a bat until January. I was worried when I first went to the nets, wondering whether the timing would be there, but the winter training went really well," she says.

"I've been working with Mark Lane, who I've had regular one-on-one coaching sessions with over the last few years, and we've made some changes.

"You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but the opposition do get used to your style of batting, they figure out your weaknesses, so it's important to make some tweaks here and there."

Taylor scored 230 runs at last year's inaugural World Twenty20, remaining unbeaten at the crease on three occasions. Opposition bowlers will be hoping she is somewhat less prolific this time around.



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see also
Women's World Twenty20 2010
17 May 10 |  Women's cricket
England can retain title - Wyatt
27 Apr 10 |  Women's cricket
Taylor delighted by 'special' MBE
31 Dec 09 |  Women's cricket
Women's World Twenty20 final as it happened
21 Jun 09 |  Women's cricket
Taylor secures top women's award
01 Oct 09 |  Women's cricket
England look to prolific Taylor
05 Mar 09 |  Women's cricket
Taylor ton inspires England win
30 Jun 09 |  Women's cricket
Taylor wins historic Wisden award
03 Apr 09 |  Cricket
Taylor ton seals England victory
07 Mar 09 |  Women's cricket
England women win World Twenty20
21 Jun 09 |  Women's cricket


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