Stafanie Taylor, a role model at 21
Stafanie Taylor is probably the best female cricketer to have emerged so far from West Indies. She's scored the most runs for them by a long margin, and only Anisa Mohammed is ahead of her on the wickets column. Taylor was named ICC Women's ODI Cricketer of the Year in 2012 and Women's Cricketer of the Year in 2011. At 21, she is entirely comfortable with being a role model for girls in the Caribbean and wants to keep doing all the "good stuff" so that she can inspire more of them to take up cricket.
When she was 10, Taylor went on her first cricket tour, from Jamaica to Guyana. She was the youngest on that trip. From that time, Taylor says she has been surrounded by people older than her, and in the process, has matured so much she doesn't know what childhood was like. She says it with absolute calm, without any hint of either regret or pride.
The calmness, which she says comes from her father, seems to define Taylor. It is hard to come across a more serene 21-year old, who is aware of the responsibility that comes with her position and bears it with total acceptance.
"Sometimes responsibility is good," Taylor says. "It makes you a better person. Most times it makes you who you are. I have matured so much over the past years. People look at me and say, 'wow, you have matured so much that it is unbelievable, do you even know what childhood is like?' And I say, 'to be honest, I don't think so.'
"A young girl might go partying and drinking and maybe smoking, but I don't know about all that. It has never really crossed my mind. When you set your mind to do something … I tend to want to move forward in life rather than going back. I am not saying people who smoke and party and drink don't achieve a lot in life, but some are really good at (balancing) it. I don't think I am, and I have not tried it."
She's had little time to. She's been playing cricket since she was eight. Taylor was also into football, netball and athletics in school - "one of the best in 100 metres" - but grew to love cricket over time. She says that ultimately, her father gravitated towards supporting her. "Cricket wasn't viewed in any [particular] way [in the family] but it was like, you know, a female actually playing the sport. It has tended to be more of a men's game. My family got to understand that this is what I love to do, I travel and it makes me happy, I get the support from them."
Taylor is now in a position where she wants to "give back" to young girls. "[Cricket] is not so popular. We are trying to get it more common among the girls, trying to get them in at a young age from school. Me being the figure out there for some of them, hopefully seeing me play or hearing about me can get them involved. They want to be like me, whether it is my personality or some other thing. I was that age as well. I look at it as being a role model."
To that end, Taylor sees herself as a leader, prepared to deny herself so that she can present an example. "I try to do the right things, try to encourage and motivate, try all of this good stuff so that persons can look up to you and respect you. You do the same to them, for they won't respect you if you don't respect them. We say in Jamaica, 'if you want good, your nose will have to run'. It will only make you better."
How did she come to be this thoughtful, articulate, composed person who herself acknowledges she matured too soon? "My dad is an introvert. We are so much alike in so many ways. We could be extroverts sometimes but mostly we tend to be introverts… And also I have read so much. I am a person who likes to read. Everything and anything you give me I'll read. I would be home reading, maybe hang out a few times, but most times, read interesting stuff."
One asks her that with all her talent and achievements, why hasn't she generated the sort of widespread attention as say, Sarah Taylor, another female cricketer with special abilities. "Sarah Taylor is a really good cricketer. But I won't say she has anything much over me. I think we are two good cricketers. She has played more games than I have and I think that is probably where I am lacking, West Indies is lacking, in playing the Australias and New Zealands and being on television where people could see what you can really do. I don't think women's cricket is marketed that well."
After having already accomplished so much in the game at only 21, there is something Taylor is still after. "I still go to school and I would love to be a forensic scientist. That is my dream really. I am working towards it. This is just my first year so I am not into much of it yet. You have to do handprints and footprints and that kind of stuff." As long as it is more of the "good stuff", girls in the Caribbean who look up to Taylor won't mind.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo