Life is a strange journey. The same possessions that assist you in establishing milestones during this journey can turn out to be life-threatening hurdles as well. A diminutive man from Nottingham stood out from the crowd due to one reason, his incredible skills in a sport called cricket. But the irony of his life was that the same sport aggravated his health issues and almost took away everything from him including his life.
James Taylor, ex-England cricketer learned some hard lessons about life, albeit, decades before he was meant to. But Taylor is a hard nut to crack, even the god of death would have found that out. He was a fighter before he was diagnosed with the life-threatening heart condition and has emerged as a stronger person after his health treatment.
His journey till now, though short, has been nothing short of inspirational. It has been a hard climb to success and then a sudden jump off it because of a storm that was never expected.
Silenced his critics
Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen minced no words in his criticism of James Taylor as a cricketer. This is what Pietersen wrote about Taylor in his autobiography: “I have nothing against James but at 5ft 6ins he's one of the shortest men currently playing county cricket. His dad was a jockey and James is built for the same gig. We were facing the fiercest attack in world cricket; I didn't think he was up for it.”
Pietersen wasn’t the only critic of James Taylor, many cricket pundits believed that Taylor wasn’t physically equipped for the highest level of the game. These criticisms though did not affect Taylor, as he consistently proved people wrong by the copious amount of runs he scored in all formats of the game for both England and his county team.
He played 27 ODIs and scored 887 runs at an impressive average of 42.23. Though his record in Tests is a little modest – 312 runs in 7 Tests at an average of 26 – he was slowly finding his feet even in Tests before the untimely health issue occurred.
Determination, grit and tenacity were the traits that defined Taylor’s international career. A promising career, which was starting to put many critics to shame was cut short in an abrupt way, but Taylor continued fighting, this time outside the cricketing field and with issues more important than a win or loss in a game.
Health troubles cut short his promising career
Taylor was diagnosed with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC), a heart ailment that gets worse with exercise which meant that Taylor had to retire. The same heart condition also forced the footballer Fabrice Muamba to retire. Taylor was only 26 when he was diagnosed with this incurable heart condition.
The attitude that separates Taylor from the rest is well understood by his tweet after he was diagnosed with the ailment, “Safe to say this has been the toughest week of my life! My world is upside down. But I'm here to stay and I'm battling on! #lifeistooshort.”
Battling on, this is what he has done throughout his life. He wasn’t bogged down by a life-threatening condition, he was ready to face it head on and like many bouncers that he had ferociously smashed in his illustrious career, he was ready to smash this one as well.
Life as a commentator and cricket pundit
Taylor couldn’t play cricket after he was diagnosed with the ailment, but that didn’t break his relationship with the game. He became a cricket commentator and analyst and this is his way to give back to the game that provided him with the fame and recognition. He is now helping various budding players realise their dream and it is a nice gesture from someone who refuses to stop fighting.
As unpredictable as life is, it is still a journey worth living. Anyone who has lost the zeal to fight with the hardships of life can trace the journey of Taylor and a new wave of positivity will surely carry him through the tough time.
At the beginning of 2016, Taylor was at the zenith of his international career. But life had other plans in store for him, all his dreams of carving out a niche for himself at the highest level were obliterated by something outside his control. But, the greatness of his story lies in the way he has kept on fighting with the factors that were in his control, he remained a vibrant and positive person after the heart treatment.
The ravages of time couldn’t destroy the gutsy, gritty and indefatigable James Taylor. He will remain an inspiration for every cricketer, every sports person and every human for his positivity, determination and most importantly ‘never say die’ attitude.