England star’s cruel fate


For so long, one of the most prolific batsmen the county game has seen in modern years, could not convince the powers that be that his lack of physical stature was not an impediment to run-scoring at the highest level.

It was never actually said by England that Taylor, officially 5ft 6in tall but seemingly at least an inch shorter, was too small for international cricket. But the suspicion always remained that it was the only thing holding him back. Not in the last year or so when his outstanding form for Notts and the Lions had finally been rewarded with regular inclusion — if not always a starting place — in England’s Test and one-day squads. And the runs had started to come.

That is what makes the timing of yesterday’s shock announcement — that one of the most popular figures in the game was suffering from Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, (ARVC) a rare disease of the heart muscle — so unfair.

There is little doubt that Taylor would have started at No 5 against Sri Lanka in the first Test this summer even though he had not fully nailed down his place and was still battling for a one-day slot.

Ever since he captained England in a rained-off one-day international against Ireland at the start of last summer he had become an integral part of the ‘new’ set-up, with his busy batting and outstanding short-leg fielding to the fore.

Taylor, at 26, could surely have looked forward to an extended run in the Test side and his combative qualities would have ensured he would never have settled with being first batting reserve for the big-hitting one-day team.

Yet it could have been so much worse. Taylor could easily have collapsed on the field — as Fabrice Muamba did when playing for Bolton against Spurs four years ago with the same undetected condition — perhaps at a far-flung overseas ground without the medical expertise that ultimately saved the footballer.

Taylor made the best decision of his life to tell Notts that he was feeling light-headed and that ‘something was not quite right’ after being dismissed by Cambridge University last week in what turned out to be his last game.

He travelled back to Nottingham with team-mate Jackson Bird and took himself off to hospital where tests found the inherited condition and specialists told him as recently as Monday night that there was no way he could continue.

Taylor will now have an operation that will include the insertion of a defibrillator which should enable him to lead a normal life, if one without high-level sport and his devotion to the gym that saw him rated as England’s second fittest player after Alastair Cook.

‘Safe to say this has been the toughest and scariest week of my life and has turned my world upside down,’ said Taylor in a post on Instagram that included a picture of him putting on a brave face while wired up lying on a hospital bed.

Support from the cricket world on social media was immense and Andrew Strauss, England’s team director, said: ‘It is both shocking and saddening to hear that James’s career has been cut short in such a sudden and unexpected manner.

‘The ECB will work closely with Nottinghamshire and we will do everything possible to help James through this difficult period and aid him in his recovery.’

That help begins with an insurance payment of around £500,000 for Taylor, who had an incremental contract with the ECB. It will be partially funded by the excellent work of the Professional Cricketers’ Association.

Personable and intelligent, Taylor — who never tired of the constant questions about his lack of height — will also surely find a role within the game. It would be no surprise if he went on to become a fine coach.

For now that can wait, as can speculation over who will replace Taylor in the England middle order at Headingley on May 19. It does not matter right now.

For now let us remember the all-too-brief glimpses of a special talent, from his outstanding one-day innings against Australia at Melbourne and Old Trafford last year, to his leading role in England’s first Test win in Durban last winter and those two brilliant short-leg catches in Johannesburg that saw him twice set off on a celebratory sprint around the outfield.

For now all that matters is James Taylor’s health and the considerable consolation that it is only his playing career that has come to an end, not his life. – Daily Mail

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