MBE caps 'brilliant' year for Taylor

Claire Taylor

In an exceptional year for her, Claire Taylor was the first woman to be named Wisden Cricketer of the Year

England batsman Claire Taylor has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List.

Taylor was voted player of the tournament in both England’s victorious ICC Women’s World Cup and the ICC World Twenty20 campaigns this year before aiding victory over Australia in the NatWest Series and helping retain the Ashes.

She also became the first woman to be named Wisden Cricketer of the Year in April and was named Women's Cricketer of the Year at the ICC Awards ceremony in October.

Clare Connor, ECB's head of England women's cricket, said: “On behalf of us all at the England and Wales Cricket Board, I would like to congratulate Claire on her MBE. This honour is a fitting tribute to mark the close of a superb year for Claire and England women's cricket.

“Claire was instrumental in England winning two World Cups and retaining the Ashes during 2009. In playing such a major part, she has raised the profile of our sport and also of the staggering commitment and achievements of female athletes.

“Her superb performances for England have seen Claire named ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year and as one of Wisden's five Cricketers of the Year - the first woman to receive this accolade.

“Claire is an exceptional role model for young cricketers and we are all looking forward to seeing her dominate the women's game further still throughout 2010, not least during England's campaign to retain the ICC World Twenty20 trophy in the West Indies in May.”

ECB chief executive David Collier added: "The ECB is extremely proud of Claire Taylor's recognition and her achievements in 2009. She has been a great example to all young cricketers becoming the first woman to be a Wisden player of the year and also the first in history to be the player of the tournament at two consecutive ICC global events.

"As the profile of women's cricket grows in England and Wales the performances of Claire and all the other players in the England team continue to influence and inspire the next generation of players."

Of her latest award, Taylor said: “It's a great honour and it's something to cap off a really brilliant 2009. It's something a little bit different, something a bit special.

“Getting cricket-specific awards is great because it's recognition within cricket, but this is recognition in the wider community so this is special but in a completely different way.”

Despite playing in two finals and retaining the Ashes, Taylor cited a semi-final - against Australia in the World Twenty20 at the Brit Oval - as her finest personal achievement in an astonishing year.

Beth Morgan & Claire Taylor

Taylor said her match-winning partnership with Beth Morgan in the semi-final of the World Twenty20 against Australia was "my highlight of the year from a cricketing point of view”

An unbroken stand of 122 between Taylor and Beth Morgan saw England win with three balls to spare and advance to face New Zealand.

“We had to get past the Aussies to get our dream Lord's final, our second World Cup final of the year against the Kiwis,” said Taylor.

“Everything came together in terms of batting second and all the practice that we'd done hunting down big totals, how we were going to go about it.

“To have such a great stand with Beth Morgan and bring the game home, and for us to do it rather than getting out and letting other people finish it off - that's my highlight of the year from a cricketing point of view.”

After a decade of growth for women's cricket, Taylor is now hoping the sport will blossom further over the next 10 years.

“I want it to be a well-played sport, for there to be more women playing sport full stop, but for cricket to be an accepted sporting path for a girl, and for younger and older women as well,” she said.

“From that participation perspective I want it to be accepted and respected as a sport.

“And from the elite end, the elite players need to keep pushing forward and keep pushing the boundary of the quality of the game that we play and to keep building that respect that there is for the game.

“Other countries will get better and it's not just a matter of throwing money at it, I don't think that's the answer at all.

Charlotte Edwards & Claire Taylor

Talor poses with England captain Charlotte Edwards after winning the World Cup at the North Sydney Oval in March

“It's making sure that we play the right competitions and we have the right opportunities to play against international opposition.”

Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, who captained England's women's team from 1966 to 1978, was delighted to see Taylor claim the award.

She added: “It's absolutely fantastic news and it couldn't go to a more deserving recipient. Her contribution to the success of the England women's cricket team over the years has been immense.

“It's also yet another recognition for the recent triumphs of the England women's cricket team who are now ranked the best in the world in all formats.

“I felt they should have been given equal billing with the men's cricket team for the BBC sports award (the team prize at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year). They fully merited sharing the prize for their efforts.”