Cricketer Jack Taylor is 21, but he’d be forgiven for thinking his career is at an important junction. An England international at under 18 level, he’s played in Gloucestershire’s first team in both the County Championship and in one day cricket, but while he is still eligible to play, he is unable, until further notice, to perform one of the key skills.
It’s hard to think of another sport where this could happen. Imagine a rugby player being prevented from kicking a ball. A swimmer found to have a technical fault at breaststroke or butterfly would need to correct it or switch to backstroke or freestyle. For Taylor, it’s like having an injury but where the healing may be as much in the mind as in the body.
One of cricket’s great variables is the action of the bowler. No coaching manual would dream up the action of Bob Willis, Mike Procter or, perhaps the most extreme of all, the South African spinner Paul Adams. Their approach to the wicket and how they set themselves to deliver the ball is a very individual matter, but Taylor cannot do this again at county level until his action changes. At the moment his arm isn’t straight enough.
Bowling action suspensions are relatively rare, yet Taylor and the Zimbabwean Glenn Querl – who ironcially played for the Unicorns against Gloucestershire on Bank Holiday Monday – have both been pulled out of first team cricket at the same time.
I remember as a boy hearing of Yorkshire off spinner Geoff Cope suffering the same fate, and watching him with some surprise on his return. The action was exaggerated. Despite the obvious work, Cope was banned for a second time in 1978, six years after his first suspension. Apart from Mark Wagh at Warwickshire in 2000 – and he was primarily a batsman rather than a bowler – I’m struggling to think of any others.
There was talk during the last Test of the work England bowling coach David Saker had done with Steve Finn. Taylor now faces considerable time in the nets with two key men at Gloucestershire – Richard Dawson and Director of Cricket John Bracewell.
Both are former international off spinners, so should have all the skills necessary if Taylor can grasp what is needed. I suggested to a long standing GCCC member that I would be surprised if we saw Taylor bowl again this season, a stance they thought was over cautious. My own view is that such changes cannot be hurried.
In the meanwhile, Taylor’s batting must not be ignored. He hits the ball hard and is an aggressor in the lower order. His career could be more in jepardy if he was a specialist bowler and an obvious number 11, but alongside his 21 first class wickets he has twice passed fifty so development into someone who could attack batting at number 6 is not out of the question.
It’s a key decision for John Bracewell. Keeping Taylor in the side would help his confidence, but the team as a whole must not suffer and it may be felt that pulling Taylor out altogether is a better option until his technical issues are solved.
Either way, it’s a conundrum – but with two England off spinners at Under 19 level in the Gloucestershire Academy in the shape of Miles Hammond and Tom Shrewsbury – the insurance policy is there too.
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