February 6, 2003

Clare Taylor looking to make a new life in New Zealand

England's top One-Day International wicket-taker and appearance maker Clare Taylor says she still has lots to offer, even at the age of 37.

At the top of England's batting averages, which "possibly puts our tournament into perspective," tail-ender Taylor, the oldest player at Lincoln, still opens England's bowling 14 years after her debut.

In New Zealand since November, the medium-paced seamer hopes to emigrate after completing a year's teacher-training course beginning in September. She has an honorary MA from Hull University and a degree in Geography.

"I quite like the lifestyle and the people are absolutely brilliant. That's the long-term plan after cricket."

Not that she plans to retire soon.

"At 37 I don't really think I should still be playing a part in the team, some of the youngsters have really got to take it by the scruff of the neck and say 'I want your place, I'm good enough, I want your place and I'm going to take it'. It's great for me, but I feel for the state of the English game that the youngsters need to take it on a bit more and say I want your place rather for me to say I'll call it a day."

Opening the batting for Otago, Taylor is topping the averages.

"It's just good to be out here in the middle getting bat on ball rather than in the nets in snow-bound Huddersfield."

The "usual suspects" have performed in the tournament, though England's squad has been together for two years since the World Cup, "its perhaps a little frustrating that we haven't really gone on."

Taylor, who gave up working for the Royal Mail after 14 years to play for Otago and England in 2002/03, she said she's not going to be playing cricket for too much longer, but still played a key role in the World Series of Women's Cricket this January and February at Lincoln, and is set to lead England's attack in two Tests against Australia later this month.

"If we come off the back of this tournament with two good wins under our belts (against India) it will lift the girls, especially the batters and make them feel that they can do it.

"I think all we're looking for is belief. The Kiwis have got it and the Aussies have got it in abundance and I think that's all we're lacking - we're not lacking in talent, it's turning that talent into runs out on the pitch in the big games, rather than just against lesser teams."

With Australia the pre-eminent team in cricket, Taylor is realistic about the task ahead. She is one of the usual suspects who have performed at Lincoln, along with Australia's Belinda Clark, Karen Rolton and the pacy 100-wicket woman Cathryn Fitzpatrick.

"You can imagine Fitzy coming steaming in and trying allsorts, but we're going to stand solid and see what happens."

Taylor has some of the Australian self-belief, something many of her England colleagues clearly lack.

"If I could bottle it, it would be worth a bloody fortune. Week in week out I've been training with them and I don't know what it is, perhaps a psychologist could help. I don't know whether it's the British mentality.

"An analogy I made it was like the British are driving along and the car goes below a quarter of a tank they panic.

"We don't want to run out of petrol, we're very conservative, while the Aussies and the Kiwis will probably drive a car until it runs out of petrol, 'she'll be right mate, you know, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.' In fact, I asked most of the girls if they'd ever run out of petrol and they said no.

"Erring on the side of caution, it's the British mentality, whereas the Aussies and Kiwis are more laid-back in their lifestyles and more laid back in their cricket and that's how they get their results. Perhaps we're a bit in fear of failure.

"I find it a bit strange that in the nets everyone bats really well and goes for their shots and don't seem to have any inhibitions. It seems when we go out into the middle we perhaps go into our shells a little bit."

She said England's top 48-player Super Fours tournament is giving the game a boost in quality, "because it's a big leap from county to international level.

"I don't think we've gone backwards, because the guy we've got on board now, John Harmer, he's the top guy, he's guided the Aussies too, I just love listening to him, hang on his every word, because he makes it all sound so simple."

While Taylor has had to work throughout her career until this season, many of the England players have started to make a living from the game.

"The money's there. The ECB's been backing us to the hilt and a lot of the girls have got lottery funding as well, so financially there's no constraints to how much training and practice you can do and with John, you've got the guy who's top of the shop in his field. So you've got to look at the individual players and it comes back to self-belief."

Starting playing aged 23, Taylor was inspired by Ian Botham's mentality. She has starred in Yorkshire's phenomenal 11 wins out of 12 in the County Championship. Known as Romper, Taylor is now an MBE for services to cricket.

She made her ODI debut in the 1988/89 World Cup in Australia and was second top wicket taker in the 2000/01 tournament in New Zealand.

Taylor has played 90 ODIs for England at this stage of the World Series and is the first English player to approach 100 wickets.

A former soccer player, Taylor, from Huddersfield, became a Sport England sporting ambassador in 1998, promoting healthy lifestyles among the young.

"You've got to give it your best shot, you can't go in half-hearted. You've got to have the belief you can do it and perhaps if a few more of us have that Botham mentality then we'll be fine."