CLAIRE Taylor knows full-time professional contracts herald a new dawn in women’s cricket but she is not jealous about missing the boat.
The former England batsman was unquestionably a vital part of the women’s game’s rise to prominence on these shores. Before retiring in 2011 Taylor averaged north of 40 across 126 ODIs and, in 2009, she was the first woman to be selected as one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year.
Since calling time on her career, the 38-year-old has watched England clinch back-to-back Ashes wins and twice finish runners-up in the Women’s World t20.
Now 18 players have signed central contracts, marking a watershed moment for the sport, but Taylor is not remotely envious of the chosen few.
“Not at all,” she said. “My personal philosophy on it is quite different.
“I am quite glad that I was supported to the extent that I could still work part-time and get challenged by the work I was doing and still achieve what I wanted to achieve in cricket. I was doing it because I loved it.”
Taylor can spot a pattern, as women’s cricket moves into the professional realm and follows in the footsteps of its men’s counterpart. And, given the state of the game when she bowed out, she is not surprised to have seen this happen when it did.
“These new professional contracts are quite exciting and they mean the girls will have the time to prepare properly,” said Taylor.
“The men’s game went through a similar transition when they moved into a fully professional era and several sports have done so.
“Throughout my career there was a transition from being just about amateur status when I started to where they are now.”
Taylor rolled back the years last weekend when appearing alongside a host of England players for the MCC Women against a Rest of the World XI.
She was removed for just three in the MCC’s unsuccessful chase but Taylor was not too downhearted: “I was just happy I wasn’t too embarrassed in the field.”
The clash was an opportunity to rub shoulders with a few of her former team-mates – and some fresh faces for the future – and she is mightily impressed with the current crop.
“They have done particularly well, winning back the Ashes in Australia and I think they will be disappointed that they got to the final of the t20 competition in April but didn’t win it,” she added.
“There are a couple of new players in the squad because it is three years since I retired. They have all been slowly making their mark in the England side.
“I look at the players coming through now and the academy and U19 set-up is brilliant. They are being challenged at the 18-22 age range so that when they come into the England side they are not scared.
“They are so much fitter, so much stronger and they are much better equipped than we ever were coming through, and that is really good.”