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January 15, 2013
Sarah Taylor will create history later this year if she is selected as the first woman to play for a men's county side and Mark Alleyne, the MCC head coach who has Taylor under his charge at Lord's, believes it is important to take her out of her comfort zone.
Taylor is widely regarded as the best cricketer in the women's game and will play men's league cricket for a Birmingham League side at the start of the season while training at Sussex with a realistic view to being called into the second XI. The MCC had already explored the option of getting Taylor a men's game over the last year.
"I think for her it would be a relevant challenge just to see how she would get on," Alleyne told ESPNcricinfo. "It's something that we talked about over 12 months ago to be honest. We think she's good enough and I'm confident her skills can stand out in the second XI.
"Putting someone in an uncomfortable position and just seeing how they can deal with it could stand her in good stead for some of the tougher moments in women's cricket. If she can deal with it, there should be nothing she can't deal with in the women's game."
The greater power of men's cricket will be an adjustment Taylor would need to make and she will not be too far away from the next sledge. But Alleyne is confident she can live with it. "We know she's got the skills to cope."
Technically, Taylor will face a larger, and half an ounce heavier, ball to which she has had little exposure. But Alleyne does not see that making a insurmountable difference. "Her experience using the larger ball isn't great at the moment," Alleyne said. "But such are her keeping skills, the different ball shouldn't affect her at all. She keeps well to spinners and seamers."
It is with the bat where Alleyne knows Taylor will have to make a significant step up. "The pace is consistently quicker than she's used to. Batting in the top order against pacier bowlers with a bit more bounce can attack areas where she hasn't really been tested before.
"Whether she can put together high quality performances against consistent pace will be one of the questions to answer."
Alleyne oversees the MCC Young Cricketers at Lord's, where Taylor is on the staff, and has been in close contact with the England Women's head coach Mark Lane.
"Sarah has been with MCC for two years and she's right on top of her game at the moment, playing particularly well," Alleyne said. "Everyone's curious to see how she can continue to improve and how she can benchmark herself with the boys."
Alleyne looks for new opportunities for all the MCC staff and said the conversations he has with Taylor are no different to anyone else. "We're always looking for opportunities for them to up their game with lots of different challenges. At the time of talking with Sarah, it was just another conversation that we would have with any other players."
Taylor had subsequent talks with Sussex and an opportunity could arise for her to provide wicketkeeping cover this season. She and fellow England international Holly Colvin, who is also on the MCC staff, have been invited to train with Sussex when they return from the Women's World Cup in February.
Sussex are a wicketkeeper lighter in 2013 after Andrew Hodd left for Yorkshire and with England commitments ruling Matt Prior out for large parts of the year and both Sussex academy wicketkeepers unavailable at the start of the season, Taylor could well be needed.
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala