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Robinson glad to have 'world-class' Taylor back

Just over a month before England begin the 2017 Women's World Cup with a game against India, their prospects have been boosted by Sarah Taylor's return after her break for an anxiety condition. Yet head coach Mark Robinson is also aware of the challenges her comeback will bring - for the team, as well as the player herself.

"It's important that the whole World Cup doesn't become about Sarah Taylor for England, and we're just all focused on her," he said. "She's one of the 15 - and they all need to feel like they're getting the same support and same attention.

"In the first game there'll be a lot of eyes on Sarah, but after that it'll calm down, it always does. Our job as staff is to make sure it's not about one person, and it's not distracting the other players, and they do feel supported."

Such concerns, though, could not dilute Robinson's delight at Taylor's return after more than a year away from international cricket, dating back to the World Twenty20 semi-final last March.

"If her mental and physical health is okay, her cricket will definitely take care of itself because she's an outstanding talent," he said. "So she brings us the potential to influence games as an individual. She's world-class.

"Sarah's a beautiful player. She can hit the ball in places where a lot can't. It's just about trying to help her keep the game simple, keep life simple, and then her talent will take care of itself. Sarah's got no issues on that at all. It's about getting her match fitness and match instincts right."

Taylor returned to the England squad during their training camp in the UAE, when she scored 26 in a warm-up match with Ireland, and then hit 61 on her Sussex return earlier this month. She could play six more matches, including England's two official warm-ups, before the opening game at Derby. It will be her third World Cup, and eighth ICC global event in all.

"What Sarah does bring you is an outstanding player who's got experience on the biggest stage. The interesting thing speaking to her is she feels like everything's a blank canvass and in the last period she's not been the person she wanted to be anyway. So she's almost starting again as a person, and starting again as a player."

England had managed Taylor's condition carefully during her indefinite break to undergo Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. She had her central contract renewed in December, and has worked closely with England's coaching staff and medical team.

"I've learned a lot with Michael Yardy and I've learned a lot with Sarah. The process teaches you the importance of small targets and graduated steps"

England women's coach, Mark Robinson

"It was never really about us - it was about what Sarah's ambitions and goals were," Robinson said. "She always had a hope and an ambition that she could get herself back. The most important thing in all this has been her personal health and well-being and, going forward, that has to be the most important thing. What we do know is that she can get on top of the illness that she's had.

"Fundamentally it's been about Sarah's commitment to face up to the challenges she's got and her determination to get herself better. It's been a graduated return - everything we've done from the beginning has been in conjunction with clinical support.

"If she progresses in her mental and physical wellbeing then, like anybody in any profession, she'll be more likely to be successful and happy."

Yet while England believe they have done everything they can to assist Taylor, it is impossible to eradicate the risk of her problems flaring up again during the tournament. "You never know what's around the corner - it might come up and bite you on the backside again. I know that, Sarah knows that," Robinson said.

For Robinson, his experience as Sussex coach dealing with Michael Yardy, who suffered from well-documented mental health problems, has proved useful in managing Taylor's return.

"I've learned a lot with Michael Yardy and I've learned a lot with Sarah. The process teaches you a lot. It teaches you the importance of small targets and graduated steps, and of being able to keep each day as it comes, the hour you're in, the minute you're in and, in cricket terms, the ball you're in.

"Mental health problems affect one in four - what you're trying to do is not let people get to the point where they need to take a break from life or from their jobs, which Sarah had to do. Hopefully with the right intervention at the right times you might be able to deal with things a lot quicker."

For all the inevitable focus upon Taylor's return, it has led to Amy Jones, who deputised as England's wicketkeeper-batsman, being omitted from the squad.

"It's professional sport - players get picked, players get left out. I'm not being insensitive," Robinson said. "What Amy needs to remember - and she will because she's a good pro - is that any moment she could be called back up into the squad, not only for Sarah but also for a batter."

Taylor's return was not the only encouraging news for England. Heather Knight is expected to start batting again in the nets next Monday, and it is hoped she will complete her recovery from a stress fracture in her left foot in time to lead England in both their official warm-up matches.

Those games will be welcome, given Robinson's frustration about England's paucity of fixtures. By the start of the World Cup, it will have been over seven months since their last one-day international.

"In a perfect world we'd have had another series between then and now," Robinson said. "Ideally we'd play better teams more often so you get a better understanding of where you are and you can learn and move on quicker."

Yet, even so, he is in no doubt of the side's improvements since the World T20. Since then, England have won all three of their ODI series, with a 3-2 victory in the West Indies their most notable success.

"We've played with more freedom, we're tactically a little bit more aware, we're fitter that's for sure, which will hopefully give us more resilience and chance of staying on the pitch," Robinson said.

It means that England are entitled to dream of lifting the World Cup at Lord's on July 23, matching their victories in 1973 and 1993, the other two occasions they have hosted the tournament.

"We know we're not the favourites but we know that if we play to our potential then we won't be far away," Robinson said. "I'm excited in the group of players we've got. We've got a huge ceiling to grow and we've done a lot of great work. How far we've come up we'll only really know when we get to the matches that really count.

"If it ends up being three out of three, fantastic, but if not so be it. We just have to make sure we keep doing the small things better."