Northamptonshire have confirmed the signing of former England batsman James Taylor as part of their coaching team. Taylor, who was forced to retire from a playing career at 26 when he was diagnosed with a heart condition known as ARVC (Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy) at the beginning of the 2016 season, will work as a consultant throughout the club's Royal London One-Day Cup campaign.
Since his enforced retirement, Taylor has worked as a pundit on television and radio, alongside various coaching commitments, which have included regular sessions with the academies at Nottinghamshire, his former club, and Yorkshire. Last October, he was invited to a training camp at the ECB's National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough to share his expertise with England's most promising talents as part of the Young Lions programme.
"I'm excited," Taylor said of his role with Northants. "They are a skilful side who have clearly done well in one-day cricket in the past. I spent a bit of time commentating at the County Ground last season and am keen to offer up my expertise to the squad. Whilst my focus will no doubt be on the batsmen, I will be on hand to assist across all areas. I can't wait to get started"
In the limited-overs formats, Taylor's ability to assess conditions, analyse risk and play to the situation saw him excel as a captain and batsman. He averaged 43.23 in a 27-match ODI career, which included scoring a match-winning century against Australia in the summer of 2015, batting smartly on an Old Trafford pitch on which only three others passed 50 and no one else passed 63. On his last appearance for England, against South Africa A, he scored 116 (only two others passed fifty). He was unlucky not to register a century against Australia at the 2015 World Cup after a botched umpiring decision left him stranded on 98 not out.
Domestically, there were few better. Taylor, who came through at Leicestershire, averaged above 50 in all but one of his eight English summers - the exception coming in 2009, when he averaged 46 - and he was a vital cog in a dynamic Nottinghamshire side that won the YB40 in 2013, contributing 585 runs at 73.12. Taylor's List A career average of 53.11 from 131 innings, which included 15 centuries and five fifties, is the fourth highest of all time.
Northamptonshire captain Alex Wakely was effusive in his praise for Taylor. "He's played all around the world and is one of the best players there is," Wakely told ESPNcricinfo. Many of the Northants squad are familiar with Taylor, having played with and against him. Wakely also captained Taylor at England Under-19 level.
Northants' white-ball success has primarily come in Twenty20 cricket, with the club winning the NatWest T20 Blast in 2013 and 2016, and finishing as losing finalists in 2015. While they did reach the quarter-final of the Royal London Cup last year, losing to Surrey off the final ball by one wicket, they have struggled to translate their 20-over form into 50-over success.
But with the Royal London Cup now in a block at the beginning of the season - the group matches will be played between April 27 and May 17, with the knockout stages taking place at the beginning of June and the final on July 1 - Northants are keen to give the competition their undivided attention. They hope Taylor's nous, added to an already vibrant and effective white-ball squad, can help win their first piece of List A silverware since the 1992 NatWest Trophy.
"One of the things we, as a club, want to get better at is our 50-over cricket," Wakely said. "Our record over the last 10 years is not great. We believe now we've got decent depth in all departments to be successful in all three formats."
Taylor will be with the club for most of their Royal London Cup programme and will work alongside former Northants stalwart David Sales, who took on a role as batting coach over the winter. Sales, who spent almost 20 years at the county as a player and is regarded by many as one of the finest English batsmen to never win an international cap, will work on a part-time basis over the summer alongside his commitments as coach at Wellingborough school.
Northamptonshire's head coach, David Ripley, said: "James has a fantastic 50-over record, averaging over 50 which is obviously outstanding. It's very unfortunate for James not to be playing anymore, but it's great to see his desire to still be involved with the game. I believe he can offer good advice, and relay his one-day cricket experiences on to our batsmen.
"David has been working part-time with the batters since January focusing on improving more of the technical aspects of their game. I believe his cricket brain and experience are a real positive for the squad and will go a long way to improving their overall game."