From 'absolutely nowhere' to a World Cup triumph, Sarah Taylor, England cricket's heroine had managed to cross the gushing waters to emerge victorious, something England's male cricketers suffering severe depression had failed to do in the past. Struck down at her zenith, Taylor had nowhere to go to. By her own admission, "getting out of bed was the highlight of a day". None of her several remarkable feats in the bygone years mattered as her mind started playing games.
There is little doubt that Taylor was among the most gifted cricketers the country had seen. After her debut way back in 2006 at the age of 17, Taylor was widely acknowledged as a terrific talent. She was quick to learn on the go in international cricket. She won T20 cricketer of the year in consecutive years (2012 and 2013) and then won the ODI cricketer of the year award the following year. She even went on to play men's grade cricket in Australia that year.
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Her confidence had reached a peak. There was no sign of the turbulence within. Her keeping was spontaneous, captivating and oozed class. Her drives, flicks and cuts were the stuff of legend. There was a charisma and aura about her hidden beneath a killer smile. Yet, she broke down. Broke down right at the pinnacle of her career. Anxiety and depression are deadly. England knew it all too well. They had lost the prolific Jonathan Trott and Marcus Trescothick to this inexplicably severe condition.
The World Cup was the last thing on Taylor's mind at the time. She could barely motivate herself to walk. Getting through the day was a chore. There were panic attacks that forced her to flee the field and eventually the game. She hoped to make a comeback but it all depended on her mental strength.
Taylor knew she wasn't herself. She knew she was young enough to come back and train. Yet, the hunger, desire and energy had miraculously vanished until realisation hit her. "Then, all of a sudden, I found myself wanting to train again, and it actually benefited my day-to-day learning and my anxiety. There’s still social anxiety; new places are still a struggle for me, and I still have to push through those on a day-to-day basis. I’m realistic that there will probably be some bumps. But if I get through it, I should look back and be completely proud of myself," she had said before the World Cup as noted in The Telegraph.
Boy, did she get through it.
At the end of the World Cup campaign, not only was she the fourth highest run-scorer, but also notched up a career best 147 in a nerve-wracking semi-final against the Proteas. Oh, did I mention that she also won the World Cup? The journey to nowhere had suddenly taken a mighty curve and Taylor had conquered Mount Everest.
Anxiety-struck people don't get through a game, forget a World Cup and Taylor had not only gotten through a whole World Cup campaign, but also won it. Take note, she wasn't a mere member in the playing XI. She won games for the team. She got through a mindbogglingly close semi-final and a stunningly closer final.
Yes, she was a winner.
A year ago, she couldn't get up to walk.
A year ago, she could barely hold her nerve while batting. She felt faint, her heart raced and the world came crashing down every time the bowler started the run-up. Yet on 5 July, the best of Taylor's hundreds unfolded before a stunned audience at Bristol. It wasn't a testimony to her skills. She had already showcased that several times. It was testimony to her mental strength. Her heart wasn't weak anymore. Two hundred and seventy-five composed runs in the company of Tammy Beaumont stood as evidence of Taylor's first step towards recovery and 147 of them belonged to her.
She was back to her record-breaking ways on that night. The 147 was her career best score, the 275 was England's highest ODI stand and the second highest of all time. Her confidence grew from zero to zenith in that one game. The slew of flicks, sweeps and reverse-sweeps unfurled broke little sweat. It was an effortless knock, one that was expected from Taylor before she broke down. Yet here she was, overcoming her personal barriers to emerge as a winner.
If 147 runs weren't enough proof of her rise from the ashes, the fact that she survived two crunch, unbelievably close games surely is. England were strong contenders even before the World Cup but without Taylor they couldn't have done it. She was the glue in this team. The glue that gelled 15 members into a team.
Her magically quick MS Dhoni-esque wicket-keeping to whip off the bails in the dying moments of the World Cup final was clear evidence that Taylor was flowing now. She had awoken. As Anya Shrubsole uprooted the final Indian wicket, there were smiles. England smiled. Taylor smiled. Hers was a smile of relief and joy. She knew that she deserved it. Probably no other cricketer deserved this World Cup more than her. She had fought with herself to reach the World Cup, and now she had conquered it. She deserved to smile. In her own words, "Where I am most comfortable is out in the middle".
“I will give myself a good pat on the back."
Taylor said this after England won the semi-final against South Africa. She knew her journey was a tough one. But she wasn't the content with a berth in the finals. The hunger was back in her game. She was cool, calmer and her head wasn't spinning each time she got into her pads. "It’s always nice to see (Taylor) playing with a smile on her face," a happy Beaumont had stated after their 275-run stand. The world was a happy place again. Taylor deserved this World Cup more than England. It was a fitting finish to an intense tournament.
Updated Date: Jul 25, 2017 10:26:41 IST