England news March 2, 2017

Taylor: 'I'll get used to my new life eventually'

A year on from his shock retirement from professional cricket, James Taylor reflects on the fears and opportunities of his new life in coaching and the media

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Taylor: "I get shot across the room to slow my heart"

"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."

"I'm not positive enough to say it's not a career lost. But I look at things that I can do rather than things that I can't"

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.

This time last year, Taylor was still a part of the England Test set-up © Getty Images

"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."

"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"

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   Maximillian Von Kleist on March 5, 2017, 16:46 GMT

    Play some league cricket...hit some fours...jog some long singles...field in slip... Is he gonna just let his skill deteriorate?

  • Mark on March 5, 2017, 12:22 GMT

    Master at the forward short-leg position. James Taylor made this position famous following two scintillating catches against South Africa three seasons or so ago. A "bull terrier" when it came to competing. No worries mate, an opportunity lost but you made your mark in the cricketing scheme of things in a short time. Small success is better than a big failure. Forever etched. At the end of the day, life itself is far bigger than a game of cricket . Good health to you and wishing you all the success in your new venture!

  • Ahmad on March 4, 2017, 0:43 GMT

    Being a small man didn't help scoring @ high SR which is a continuous demand in limited overs. A blessing in desguise for Eng as End have scored all the big totals once he retired just like with Ind Dravid was the damper on scoring rate & Ind won all imp titles when he didn't play

  • johnthekiwi on March 3, 2017, 16:06 GMT

    @ALTAFPATEL: Easy there mate. It is just a figure of speech. It doesn't mean there is "shame" associated with what Taylor is going through any more than it means rain is shameful when we say "it is a shame about the weather wrecking the fourth days play".

  • samy on March 3, 2017, 15:33 GMT

    Every cloud has a silver lining . Be Positive James. All the best from Sri Lankan fans

  • Kapil Raut on March 3, 2017, 12:39 GMT

    when I first saw him bat i thought England have got one more Joe root , and this man Taylor could have served Cricket for 10-12 years such a skilfull cricketer he is . But unfortunately he didn't . All the best James for whatever you do in your life . May GOD make u healthy again .

  • Altaf on March 3, 2017, 11:22 GMT

    @ARPIT PATEL Why shame? It's unfortunate, not shame.

  •   Arpit Patel on March 3, 2017, 10:41 GMT

    It's a shame that his health took away his career. He could have been a really good cricketer for england. But he's a positive lad. I wish him good luck and hope him a better luck with whatever he does for rest of his life. Hate to see this kind of stuff happen to good people.

  • guru on March 3, 2017, 8:50 GMT

    I would have been happy to even reach a fraction of your achievement to play for the country. Best of luck with your new innings, life will provide ample of exciting opportunities if you continue stay positive as you are and be the role model you are becoming.

  • Swapnil on March 3, 2017, 7:29 GMT

    James is a gutsy cricketer, little in stature but exceptionally gifted in stroke making. He could have become a key player in England's Test cricket, his footwork is immaculate. I felt very sad the day he had to retire from Cricket. I believe that nature opens another door and it is always the better one when it closes one down for you. I feel very proud that James is digging it in, I wish you all the success mate, enjoy your life.

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