Sussex temper Taylor debut frenzy
Sussex have acted to temper media excitement at the prospect that Sarah Taylor will become the first women to play county 2nd XI cricket next summer.
As Taylor prepared to leave with the England women's side on Thursday for the World Cup in India, where she is already bound to become the centre of attention, Sussex insisted that no guarantees had been given about a 2nd XI debut and that it was subject to further assessment of her ability.
In a carefully-worded statement, Sussex said: "Whilst the club can confirm that initial and informal conversations have taken place between Sussex coaching staff and England women's coach Mark Lane it needs to be stressed that these are at a very embryonic stage.
"Sussex hold the abilities of Sarah, and indeed her Sussex and England playing partner - Holly Colvin - in very high regard, and to this end Sarah could, theoretically, solve our short-term dilemma surrounding our 2nd XI wicketkeeping place with both Academy keepers Callum Jackson and Leo Cammish still in full-time education and therefore unavailable for the early part of the season.
"Sussex at the moment are going look at all available options including the possibility of using Sarah. In her case the first step would involve practising with the 2nd XI and to re-evaluate from there."
Media worldwide recorded Taylor's likely opportunity as a pivotal moment for women's cricket with The Guardian even carrying the story on page one, where it hailed the development as "a groundbreaking move for women's sport".
Although Taylor herself stressed that talks were only at an informal stage, Sussex's director of cricket, Mark Robinson, still felt the need for Sussex to regain control of its own selection process.
"Our 2nd XI coach Carl Hopkinson has spoken to Mark Lane about the fact we might be short of a wicketkeeper for the early part of the summer," he said. "There may be an opportunity for Sarah in the future but at the moment the key thing is for her to train with the 2nd XI. Then we can see if she has adapted to the environment and then if we have an opportunity to play her, we can potentially take it a step further.
"It's important everyone involved has the right level of expectation. We don't want to promise anything that can't be fulfilled and it would be premature to suggest that a decision has been made about Sarah playing 2nd X1 cricket.
"In some aspects, I'm certain Sarawh and Holly will cope easily, but in others it is a step into the unknown. So we'll see what happens and then, if everyone feels it is the right thing to do and if it is not depriving people in our system who may have a chance of earning a professional contract, we can talk about playing in the 2nd X1.
"Holly and Sarah were both in the Sussex Academy and we know both are excellent characters. They have shown excellent commitment to the club and, in many ways, their experience and professionalism would prove beneficial to our development of players."
Clare Connor, the head of England women's cricket, is also a board member at Sussex. She suggested that Taylor and Colvin both needed challenges outside the women's game, saying: "Sarah Taylor and Holly Colvin are highly-skilled cricketers who have progressed through the Sussex system, including the Sussex Academy, under the guidance of Keith Greenfield. Their potential, as with most young cricketers, is still to be fulfilled despite both players having already achieved so much for England in World Cups and Ashes Series.
"Any opportunity for our players to be challenged and for their development to be accelerated beyond the norm would be welcomed, so long as those opportunities tallied with the player's stage of development.
"There is no getting away from the fact that this dialogue with Sussex is a hugely positive step for the game and our players. It is indicative of how the women's game has progressed in recent years if players are turning heads in this way. I think it is also fantastic to know that first-class counties are open to such possibilities."
"As a Board Member of Sussex, it is pleasing that the club is demonstrating an open-minded and innovative outlook to the game. Everyone at Sussex is a champion of the women's game."
This piece was updated at 2.30pm on January 16 with addiitonal comments from Mark Robinson
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo