I am fully committed - Jerome Taylor
Jerome Taylor, the West Indies fast bowler who has been overlooked on fitness grounds for the tour of England, has hit back at allegations by the WICB chief executive Ernest Hiliare that he has failed to commit to rehabilitation programmes put in place in the past two years to quicken his return to the Test side.
Hilaire questioned Taylor's commitment as a professional cricketer during a visit to the first Test at Lord's, saying he was very "difficult" to deal with during the various rehabilitation progammes in the last two years.
But Taylor has told ESPNcricinfo that on his home island of Jamaica nobody had ever seen fit to question his commitment and that he was "disgruntled" at the West Indies board's policy of making demands on him that applied to no other players and that these demands had stalled his comeback to international cricket.
Hilaire was critical of Taylor's indifference towards the WICB medical programmes on Sky TV. "I know, for example, Jerome was on contract, he was injured, he was put on a programme," he said. "It was exceedingly difficult to get him to commit to the programme and to apply himself, to even get him to go to Kingston to get his medical check-ups and to do what had to be done.
"He was in that programme supervised by Jimmy Adams. And there were a lot of difficulties with Jerome. He came back, got injured again, and he was put on another programme. And he was asked to play an entire series of the first-class season to demonstrate that he was fit.
"He took a break, went to Jamaica to a funeral came back and got injured. He was put on a programme. Next thing we heard he was in the IPL. Since then he has not played for Jamaica nor has he played in the IPL this year. There is only so much you can do. You have a player, you are providing for him to be on the medical programme, you are providing for him to be in that rehabilitation programme and he doesn't commit himself to it as a professional."
Taylor, who has had differences with the board over communication about his injury, dismissed Hiliaire's remarks. "I have no idea what Mr Hilaire is actually saying," he said. "Basically I do not know where he is getting his information from. As far as commitment is concerned towards cricket I don't think my efforts can ever be questioned. If you ask anybody in Jamaica, where I have played my cricket, they will tell you I am somebody who has always shown commitment towards cricket and my development."
He also said he has completely recovered from the back injury, having travelled to the USA where a combination of strength training, acupuncture and deep tissue massage were part of his recovery process.
"Everything is feeling all right. I am just going through the paces, taking my time not to rush back to anything but also making sure no stone is left uncovered," he said. According to Taylor, the WICB has not been in touch for the past 18 months except for speaking recently with the Jamaica Cricket Association president: "Nobody from the WICB has been in contact with me recently. The only person I have been in touch with was the JCA president."
Taylor last played for West Indies in the home ODI series against South Africa in mid-2010 but a chronic spine injury resurfaced to sideline him once again. He did go on to play the IPL in 2011 season for Pune Warrirors but back spasms ended his chances of a quick comeback to the international fold.
An attacking fast bowler, Taylor's best spell came ironically against England in the first week of February in 2009 when he cut through the England batting order in the second innings in Jamaica with extreme pace and swing to roll out the visitors for 51, setting up a famous innings victory. West Indies have managed to secure just two Test victories since that success.
A year ago, the WICB excluded Taylor from their limited-overs squads against India and announced that the selectors wanted him to prove his fitness during the first-class competition and then fulfill an entire season of four-day cricket to be eligible for a return to Test cricket.
"The selection committee is of the view that Jerome Taylor is required to play a full season of regional cricket in order to prove his fitness to compete adequately at the international level before being considered for selection," the release said.
Michael Holding, the former West Indies fast bowler, argues that this stipulation was unfair to a youngster like Taylor. "I don't care if Jerome Taylor wasn't committed to the rehab program or if he even had a broken leg and couldn't play," he said. "I am dealing with the principle of dealing with a young man in his twenties and putting stipulations in place which will basically rule him out for at least 18 months and possibly more."
Holding also accused Hilaire of feigning ignorance about Taylor playing the IPL as it was mandatory for any player to get an No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the home board. "He had to get that from the WICB. Is there some other phantom WICB that gave him the NOC?" he said.
According to Taylor he is "currently" not injured and is working in his native St Elizabeth in Jamaica, training at the St Elizabeth Technical School with the senior coach there. "I am not injured. I am working hard on my fitness along with the coach and we are making sure everything is sorted in due time," he said.
Taylor said making a comeback will not be difficult, but that he failed to understand why only he has been asked to pass stringent, long-term fitness standards before being reconsidered for selection.
"I have never seen any other player who has to play a full season, which to me I think is unfair," he said. "That is the only thing that has me disgruntled somewhat because if you are going to have to some criteria for returning to cricket, then let it be the criteria for all and not only for me. To me it is unclear why I have to play a full season. It makes no sense."
Taylor sent a letter (see sidebar) on June 30 last year to Tony Howard, the WICB cricket manager, "seeking some clarification as to my eligibility for selection to the West Indies cricket team." Though he got a call from a WICB official, who said the board would like Taylor to meet the national selectors, Taylor's response was why no on would reply to him in writing.
Taylor, 27, has not ruled out taking the new ball for West Indies again. But for that to happen both him and WICB have to sit down and talk. He added he was certain what exactly he needed to do to get back in favour with the WICB.
"What is happening now is not in my control," he said. "Since I have to play a full season for the comeback and if that is the criteria I have no grouse about it and I wouldn't want to get into a quarrel or argument with anyone. The only thing I can do is to make sure I do what I have to do, make sure that I get myself in a position where I am ready when they are ready to pick me."
At the same time Taylor, whose contract was bought out by Pune Warriors for the fifth IPL season, does not just want to sit idle."I am not going to sit around and wait, just carry on with life serenely. I want to play some cricket. Cricket is happening around the world."
If West Indies are not interested, perhaps the life of a Twenty20 itinerant awaits.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo