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Claire Taylor: one of the greats

Posted in England Women

We now need to plan for an England women’s team without Claire Taylor.

I’ve known about Claire’s decision to retire for a few months. We chatted after the Australia tour and she told me that this summer would be her last as an England player.

I tried my best to change her mind but anyone who knows Claire will know how determined she is. She had some unfinished business and thought the NatWest Quadrangular Series was her chance of putting that right. Helping us win the Twenty20 and 50-over series was a magnificent way to sign off.

Claire and I have been working together for 14 years. Anyone who listens to me for that long deserves a medal.

When we first met I asked her what she wanted to achieve. She said she wanted to be the best player in the world. My job was to help her realise that. Looking back, I could not be more proud of what she has achieved.

Our sessions weren’t so much about technique, though. It was more about finding a way. We probably only did one video session in all our time together.

Claire played a lot of hockey and you could see that when she batted. She was good pulling and cutting square of the wicket. We had to work on playing straight, being strong behind the ball and hitting down the ground.

We forged an excellent two-way relationship during our many net sessions at Guildford. It was never just one of us driving it. We had a mutual respect for each other. Whatever we tried in those nets she would take out into matches.

Claire Taylor

An unbeaten 76 to help us beat Australia in the World Twenty20 semi-final was typical Claire Taylor - perfectly planned

We had this drill where I’d put out cones which would imitate fielders. I’d give them numbers, let Claire have 30 seconds memorising where they were positioned, then fire balls out of the bowling machine and tell her which number fielder to hit. We’d then change to colours, then letters and so on. She has a remarkable memory. I’d forgotten which number, colour or letter was which within seconds.

There are a number of innings which stand out for me. Her 156 not out against India at Lord’s five years ago was a special knock. We had worked a lot before that game on sweeping hard in front of square and it paid off. It’s still the highest score by an England women’s batsman at Lord’s.

Then there was her 76 not out at the Oval in the World Twenty20 semi-final against Australia in 2009 when we chased down 164. That was typical Claire Taylor - perfectly planned.

Another was her first innings in the Ashes Test at Bowral. She made 79 in a low-scoring game and we retained the Ashes.

She was player of the tournament in both the 2009 World Cup and World Twenty20. That shows consistency. She scored more than 4,000 runs in one-day cricket at an average of 40. You are talking about one of the greatest players to have played women's cricket and nobody would argue with that.

When one door closes, another one opens. We have a batch of players who will get an opportunity to show what they can do with the bat - the likes of Dani Wyatt, Holly Colvin, Heather Knight and Laura Marsh.

But before then a final thought on Claire. I will miss her professionalism and her stubbornness at the crease, but I will miss her most as the unique character she is.

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