Australia legend Adam Gilchrist had once hailed Sarah Taylor as the best in the world wicketkeeper across all formats, responding to a tweet that showed yet another of the England star’s lighting quick stumpings down the leg side.
“She is the best wicketkeeper in the world at the moment - male or female. She’s done some work over the years in the Big Bash in Australia and with social media now you can see these little snippets…. It’s a pretty bold statement, because there are a lot of fine wicketkeepers around…[They] spend so much time up to the stumps with a little less pace on the ball in the women’s game, so skillful,” Glichrist later elaborated.
Gilchrist would know what it takes, after all he is among the best wicketkeeper of all times. But the 31-year-old Taylor could lay claim to being the most naturally talented keepers there is, across genders and eras.
Taylor, who retired from international cricket last September to focus on her mental health, was a trailblazer when she was on the ground. Taylor regularly played in men’s teams in England and kept wickets in very different conditions to the women’s games. She became the first woman to play men’s grade cricket in Australia in 2015.
Her battle with anxiety, breaks from the cricket and return for the sensational 2017 World Cup campaign at home paved the way for more open conversation about mental health in cricket.
Since making her debut against India as a 17-year-old in 2006, Taylor has been one of the pillars of the England setup with three world champion medals to her name. She holds the all-time record of dismissals in women’s internationals with 232 across formats. She was just as skillful with the bat, finishing second in England’s all-time list of run-scorers behind the legendary Charlotte Edwards in her 126 One-day Internationals, 10 Tests and and 90 Twenty20 International matches.
And in a career that thrilled so many fans, it was behind the stumps that she did her most scintillating work.
One of Taylor’s most iconic catches came back in 2013, in an ODI against Australia. It needs to be seen again and again, to be believed. Anticipating a reverse sweep, she dived full tilt to her left and caught Jodie Fields while showing off her sharp reflexes.
It was the perfect description of why Taylor is regarded so highly for her glovework – that instinct, the reaction time.
The stumping that made Gilchrist declare her the best was done in under 0.06 seconds.
What made her performance even more commendable was the fact that she spent most of her career without any specialised keeping training. According to a profile on ESPNCricinfo, 158 of her 226 international caps were during a time when there were no central contracts for women’s cricketers in England. It was all her natural ability and gift of reflexes that made her stand out.
Taylor’s approach to keeping was simple, a fear instilled through proven skill instead of any frills.
“I have always believed that the most feared wicketkeepers are the ones that don’t really say much. But they have a presence about them behind the stumps - you just know that they are just there,” she had told The Cricket Monthly in an interview.
“I want the batsman to know that if they leave the crease, they are gone. I’ve already got the ball in my hands, I’m taking their stumps and they’re just gone. I want them to have that in their brain even before I have caught the ball.”
Of course, there is a long highlight reel when it comes to her best dismissals behind the stumps, and the legside stumpings deserving a special mention.
Here’s selection of Taylor’s best efforts: