Sarah Taylor does not know when or even if she will play cricket again but, almost 16 months on from announcing her retirement from England duty, she feels happier than she has ever been.
Widely regarded as one of the best wicketkeepers in the world – male or female – Taylor brought the curtain down on a stellar international career in September 2019 to concentrate on her much-publicised battle with anxiety.
Taylor has not played since then, now combining teaching cricket at a local school with the odd coaching job on the side at Sussex, who are launching an innovative mental health hub with the 31-year-old’s help.
Volunteering some of her wisdom for a free online resource which aims to help users find support and hope in shared life experiences has been satisfying for Taylor for an initiative which is understandably close to her heart.
She told the PA news agency: “I’m comfortable, I’m in a job that I love, I get to see my family a bit more than I used to, I’m in the same place all the time, and I’ve just been able to create a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
“Unfortunately cricket had to kind of fade away but I’m happier than I probably have ever been. I needed a year to just completely declutter and sort my life out.
“It’s now a case of, ‘OK, cricket was a massive part of my life, do I want to play it again?’ I’ve got my cricket bag, it’s at the school ready to have a hit, but then the pandemic hit. I don’t know when I’m going to get a hit.
“But if I play and I think, ‘I don’t really enjoy this any more’ then I stop, or if I play and then think, ‘Actually…’, so it’s a win-win. Whichever way it goes, I’m comfortable.
“It’s an ‘I don’t know’ (the future of my cricket career) – I’m going to sit firmly on the fence.”
If a comeback does materialise then representing Sussex takes preference over the inaugural edition of The Hundred next summer, although featuring in the women’s Indian Premier League would be a “massive dream, but if not I’m OK”.
As well as being renowned for her glovework, Taylor is second on the list of all-time England run-scorers and was part of the sides that scooped World Cup crowns in 2009 and 2017, while she is also a three-time Ashes winner.
Taylor’s CV means she will, for a few years at least, be in high demand if she decides to resume playing but while confessing to missing her former team-mates, she feels in a much better place because of her hiatus.
She added: “It sounds awful to say that I was healthier when I left cricket but that’s fundamentally what happened because I had a tough time dealing with Sarah Taylor the cricketer and Sarah Taylor the person.
“Sarah Taylor the cricketer played with flair, was quite out there, always smiling. But Sarah Taylor the person, I didn’t quite know who I was. I was very quiet, quite reserved, with my anxieties and dealing with all that stuff.
“But once you took the cricket away, I’ve been able to just be me. It’s been quite refreshing, the expectation of the cricket is gone and I was able to just do what I wanted, when I wanted.”
If this is the end, Taylor is “very proud” with what she accomplished, the same emotion she felt at recently being named as the only England entrant in the International Cricket Council’s one-day international team of the decade.
Turning her attention to Sussex’s new scheme in which she was one of thousands to upload videos of 60 seconds or less by the county’s cricketing community and beyond, Taylor added: “I’m still managing my own anxieties.
“But I’ve been so inspired by some of the videos, some of the hardships that people have been through. It’s been quite nice to relive everything, but know there’s light and I am doing very well, so it’s been a nice experience.”
:: The Sussex Cricket Mental Health & Wellbeing Hub is available now to anyone that needs it at www.sussexcricket.frog.net