Taylor: 'I'll get used to my new life eventually'
"Scary is an understatement," says James Taylor, describing how his life has changed over the last year. From being part of England's squad in South Africa at the start of 2016, Taylor was struck down by a potentially fatal heart condition as he prepared for the county season in April and immediately forced into early retirement at the age of 26. Soon afterwards, he had an operation to attach an internal defibrillator to his heart.
He has already experienced what it feels like for the defibrillator to kick in and deliver an electric jolt that "shoots me across a room". Not only has Taylor had to come to terms with giving up the sport he loves but he is still learning to trust his heart again and now experiences anxiety just walking up the stairs or contemplating going to the gym (he believes can exercise to 60% of his original capacity, but is reluctant to test the theory).
"It's exceptionally scary," he says. "People don't realise, because I put on this persona, because I'm positive but you can't get around the fact of how scary it is. And nobody, unless they've been through it or are going through it, will ever know that feeling of when you don't think your heart's going to stop - it escalates and doesn't stop until this thing in my chest shoots me across a room, which is scary. That's the anxieties I'm dealing with at the moment, everything I do I have to think twice about. That's just the way it is, that's my new life. I'll get used to it eventually but it's constantly keeping me on my toes."
Taylor's positivity - in person and on social media - is uplifting but the stark reality of how close he came to death is hard to ignore. Neither is the evident sadness at having his time as a professional cricketer cut short, just as he seemed to be cementing himself in England's plans.
"I'm not positive enough to say it's not a career lost. I should be playing for another ten years - and then I reckon I could still play for a bit more. But I look at things that I can do rather than things that I can't. You have to be positive in whatever walk of life you're in. It's not easy but I'm very fortunate to still be here."
Taylor was at Edgbaston earlier this week, where he talked to young players about his experiences at the PCA's Rookie Camp. Those about to embark on their first full season in county cricket are invited to awareness sessions on gambling, anti-corruption, social media, agents and the importance of personal development alongside their burgeoning professional careers. Taylor offers inspiration twice over: as a batsman who scored more than 16,500 runs and a person who has dealt so admirably with adversity.
"It's about preparing the rookies for a life after cricket," Taylor says. "We know how short a career can be. No matter how successful you are, you're going to have to have a second career after cricket. Life for me has changed quite dramatically. I'd like to say I'm exceptionally good with change - and I was when I was playing - but this is a bit dramatic. But I've dealt with it as well as I could have."
Having quickly forged a new path in the media, Taylor admits that he still misses "the buzz" of playing in front of packed crowds when compared to life as a commentator. "It's not as enjoyable but now I can say I was an exceptionally good player - the game's very easy from behind the camera. It's easy sitting up there and talking about your mates and what they're doing wrong.
"Ultimately showing off in front of thousands of people is very enjoyable. Showing off and having that buzz of winning a game for your side. And proving people wrong, as well. I can do that in other ways, but not doing it on the pitch as well is tough."
The only cause he has to pick up a bat nowadays is when engaged in coaching, which is something he is hoping to do more of. "I've got a massive passion for the game and I believe that's an area I can help. I've been lucky enough to be involved with Notts, Yorkshire - I've done some work with their academy, which was great fun."
Despite his heart condition, Taylor has belatedly taken up that staple cricketer pastime: golf. He is also getting married this summer, although he plans to let his fiancée, Josephine, take the strain of organising their wedding. Life beyond cricket was thrust upon Taylor a decade earlier than he expected but, even though he admits to nerves while standing at the front of a packed room to tell his story, it is clear he can still have an impact on the game.
"It's exactly where I thought I'd be - and what I wanted to be doing - in ten years' time, I've just fast-forwarded it. I'm a little bit younger than most doing it. I've got no regrets. I wouldn't have done anything differently - yeah, I would have scored a few more hundreds and not given my wicket away so easily on occasions, but that's the game. I'm fortunate enough to be in this position but I'm also lucky to be here and have the opportunities I've had."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick