Claire Taylor – My life in cricket

I worked at Procter & Gamble in IT management for a few years after I left university, but it got to a point where they made it clear I had to give them my full commitment or go and play cricket.

Doing that meant giving up a decent wage and moving back home with my mum and dad, but I was so determined to be the best that I did it.

The English season is short and I knew the only way to accelerate my development was play all year round, so that meant going over to New Zealand and spending six months there.

Looking back, it probably didn’t accelerate my development, but it certainly gave me something to build from and set me up for all the things I achieved with England – the highlight being winning back-to-back World Cups.

My first brush with cricket was walking through the playground at about seven years old, being hit on the head by a stray tennis ball some of the older kids were playing with and waking up on the head-mistress’s couch. I thought I was in trouble when I woke up. It was my one and only visit to the headmistress’s office.

I left a couple of years afterwards and went to a Montessori school where the classes were small, so we all did PE together, boys and girls, doing the same sport a few months at a time. So we had a term of cricket, which is when I first started playing, and I then joined a boys’ team.

I always played several sports and played junior hockey for England, but the standard was not that high when I was at university. There was so much more exposure to cricket and I had the chance to play in the men’s second XI, so it was natural to carry on with cricket.

Being the only girl in the team, pretty much the only girl in the league, I didn’t see myself as a trailblazer or that I was trying to make a stand. I was just playing cricket with my mates, it was as simple as that. They were quite accepting; it probably helped that I was good!

The year after I graduated from Oxford I made my ODI debut for England and then my Test debut not long afterwards. I was the classic wide- eyed new girl in the squad when I went in and, in truth, I wasn’t ready for the jump in standard. I was playing alongside players I had idolised for ten years and scored about one run in ten matches.

Hard work made all the difference for me. I was never confident in myself that I was as talented as others I played with or against. I was known for my work ethic.

Anything I had about my game I wanted to make the most of. By the time I got to the golden period of my career, 2007 to 2009, the year I was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year, I had a very good idea of how I wanted to play and worked hard technically and tactically.

I used to call it research, but I would be cynical about watching as much as I could when we were on tour, from Aussie state to old classics on ESPN. I started to watch certain players and knew I could never play like them, but I looked at those that I thought maybe I could. Ricky Ponting and Debbie Hockley play like I do.

I never look back wishing I had done anything differently as you make the decisions based on what you think is right at the time. But I did have a particularly low point in 2005. We had got knocked out of the World Cup in South Africa. We were rolled by Australia. I was so disappointed having given up so much and moved back in with my parents, so to not perform with that opportunity was a real low.

I went back to work as a management consultant, which I’m still doing now, and got a mortgage. Now when clients and colleagues see ‘MBE’ on my business card they tend to enquire why. I never tire of telling them.

This article was originally published in The Cricket Paper, May 29 2015

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