England news January 15, 2013

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Robin on January 17, 2013, 0:44 GMT

    I am glad to have launched a stimulating debate! Presumably Sarah, though one never knows these day, would have to have a separate changing room from her male Sussex Seconds colleagues - whereas having a single changing room for the WHOLE team is a key part of "bonding" with mutual mucking in and badinage/banter (e.g KP and Swanny in the England dressing room!). Separate dressing rooms would be a reversion to the old amatueur/professional divide. Also where does it all stop? If Sarah is allowed to play as a woman by logical extension Sussex Seconds could then include other women and indeed the whole team could eventually consist of women! And if they started beating other County Second XIs the women might all be promted to become the Sussex First Eleven!

  • philip on January 16, 2013, 17:40 GMT

    I very much doubt any fast bowler will feel compelled to hold back. She will sink or swim on merit.

  • Robert on January 16, 2013, 13:10 GMT

    @RGWRGW et all - I think you are begining to touch on the very raw nerve that equality is very much a one way street. (Some) Women complain of inequality, normally around prize money and pay, but it is only womens sport that has rules barring entry by male competitors. Males sports do not have the same barriers. It is time the white, able bodied, hetrosexual male started to stand up for themsleves. Lets cast off our ties - those leashes by which we are led - and burn them in an act of defiance.

  • Cameron on January 16, 2013, 12:46 GMT

    If these ladies are good enough then why not? RGWRGW women cricketers don't play with a tennis ball so your comment about physical contact doesn't make any sense. Getting pinged by a cricket ball can smart a little no matter the sex of the player delivering it! It would be a deserved challenge for some ladies who have excelled representing their country. Who knows, they may well give the lads a run for their money and offer experience, they are after all internationally experienced cricketers who have played in world cups and ashes series and in all conditions.

  • Tom on January 16, 2013, 10:16 GMT

    @RGWRGW: Cricket is not a contact sport, in any stretch of the imagination. To a bowler, a batsman is just a set of pads, the sex of the batsman should be irrelevant. I have no problem with any team selecting someone because of their talent.

    Take Holly Colvin for example, she could easily play mens T20 cricket, her lack of physical stature is irrelevant for a spinner, all that matter is how she flights and turns the ball.

  • Elliott on January 16, 2013, 9:23 GMT

    I see no logical problem with women playing in men's teams but men being barred from women's teams. It is effectively like age-grouping: an 18 yo is not barred from the Test side, just because they are allowed to play U19's as well. Might require a change to official regulations, but would seem entirely wise to me.

  • Harriet on January 16, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    It sounds a good solution (Sussex Womens Team are brilliant, by the way) rather than trying to find another young keeper when both academy spots are already taken. Taking on a third young lad seems a bit pointless, and as others have pointed out "full time education" implies 16-18 year old boys, not fully grown men. A 23 year old female athlete with years of experience and a 17 year old male (and probably not that large a male if they are wicketkeepers) would probably be fairly even in terms of size and strength. If your opponents respect you as an athlete they won't hold back.

  • Owen on January 16, 2013, 7:37 GMT

    @RGWRGW - true, logic would dictate that if women's can play for men's teams then men should play for women's teams, but I think this is one of those occasions where common sense should prevail as it can only be a positive step for women's cricket. As for fast bowlers bowling against the girls, you just have to look at the likes of Danni Hazell playing in the North East men's leagues, or Fi Morris when she played U15 boys county to know that the men won't hold back because they're women.

  • John on January 16, 2013, 6:35 GMT

    @Nerk on (January 16 2013, 03:47 AM GMT), interesting that you should bring up the subject of England poaching players as this is exactly the same. From what Sussex have had to say about this matter, it doesn't sound like they are the driving force behind this move, just as England have never been the driving force behind foreign-born players playing cricket in England. I'm glad that you brought that to our attention, although I'm sure you're with me that only twits of the first order would think or suggest otherwise.

  • Simon on January 16, 2013, 3:47 GMT

    England and English teams have long been satisfied with poaching players from other countries, so it is no surprise to find them poaching players from other sexes now too! Good on Sarah, if she's good enough to play, let her play. @RGWRGW - you sir, are a twit of the first order. "cricket is a physical contact sport when the ball thuds into the batsman's body blah blah blah." I have played cricket with numerous women, and they do not flinch when confronted when a bit of short pitched fast bowling. In fact, they generally dispatch the ball to the boundary.

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