James Taylor [photo: Debbie Davies]
It was undoubtedly a major coup for Nottinghamshire to win a hotly contested race for the signature of James Taylor, one of the brightest young batsmen in the country and someone who has been earmarked for a place in the senior England set-up for a while now, particularly in the longer form of the game. The diminutive ex-Leicestershire batsman has an idiosyncratic technique, yet crucially possesses the steely temperament and ability to think on his feet that marks out the very best players. A winter leading England Lions in the Subcontinent has seen him bank much valuable experience, if not quite as many runs as he might have liked, and he now looks ahead at his first season playing Division One County Championship cricket. We caught up with him just prior to the season for a brief chat about the recent past in Asia, as well as the near future with Notts, as the former Fox looked forward to life as a Stag…
Looking back over the scorecards from the one-day series in Bangladesh, I was struck by how low-scoring the games were, especially in comparison with the series in Sri Lanka. Were they poor pitches?
They weren’t the best pitches, but they also weren’t the worst. We should have applied ourselves better as batsmen and scored more runs. But, foreign conditions, something totally different, and it was a young squad, so that’s going to happen sometimes and unfortunately it did. That’s the reason why we lost the series against Bangladesh [3-2], but we pulled it back against Sri Lanka and played well.
Given the widely reported troubles of England’s senior players against spin in the UAE, is Asia the best place for young English batters to winter in terms of development?
Definitely. It’s only going to help us in the future. We’re all young players and all aspiring to play at the top level for England, so it’s definitely going to benefit our game playing against spin in those tough conditions out there.
Was there anything specific you learnt about playing spin, be that technical, mental, or about gameplans?
Yeah, just that the execution has to be spot on. Every shot you play you just have to nail it that bit more. In England you’ve got a bit of leeway, I think, whereas over there some balls spin, some balls go straight on, and it’s a bit slower as well, so execution has to be spot on or you’re going to come unstuck. That’s the thing that I found.
Sort of sits in the pitch a bit…
Yeah, exactly. We did a lot of work on playing spin with Graham Thorpe and he’s obviously had a lot of experience out there which definitely helped all the young players.
Do you feel that one of the problems we’ve traditionally had against spin is that certain modes of dismissal are perceived as ‘worse’ ways of getting out – I’m talking about being stumped, really – and that affects the way people play, with batters perhaps becoming creasebound and getting a bit stuck?
I suppose you could look at it like that but it certainly doesn’t apply to me. I go up the crease and back in the crease, so I’m not really too worried about getting stumped. I use my feet a lot and sweep a lot, so those options are there. But, speaking personally, I don’t worry about it too much.
once a Fox, now a Stag
How was the experience as captain? Did it affect your game adversely?
Well, I captained quite a lot in England last year, both with the Lions and with Leicestershire, and my scores were a lot better as captain than when I wasn’t, so I’m not going to use that as an excuse why I didn’t score as many runs as I wanted out in the subcontinent. It was tough work, but I enjoy captaincy and relish the opportunity I’ve been given to captain the Lions, especially at such a young age, and I grew into it. I’ve obviously got more experience now and I got a lot more confidence, the more I did it.
I’m sure there were several counties after your signature. Why did you choose Notts?
Notts was just an obvious choice for me at this stage – it was time for me to look for a new challenge and I thought Notts was perfect for that. The facilities here are quality. It’s a great team, pushing for silverware in all competitions. And the ground’s quality. I’ve got fond memories of playing here. I know the coaches. So it was just an obvious move, and not too big a move from Leicestershire. I’ve got a place up here, which is nice. It means I can walk into the ground when I want, and it’s a great area and a great club to be at.
Did Trent Bridge’s reputation as a seamer-friendly or swing bowler’s ground enter your thoughts at any stage? There are probably easier places than here to rack up the runs…
Not really. Like I said, I was up for a new challenge and the more runs I score here – which is deemed to be a seamer-friendly wicket – the better it’s going to look for me. And I think it’s going to help my game, the more pace and bounce there is.
How were Notts viewed as opponents when you were at Leicestershire?
I only played them in one-day and Twenty20 cricket and they’re always tough opposition, always up there in all formats of the game, a tough unit with a great work ethic, as I’ve seen from my brief stint here so far.
Leicestershire won the T20 last season (and 3 times in total). What advice would you give the Notts lads to help them go those couple of steps further?
I’m not sure if I can give them too much advice, to be honest, as the new boy coming into the dressing room. But I think it’s just about gameplans. That’s what we did at Leicester: everyone nailed their role. We had lots of matchwinners – different matchwinners in different games. Everyone won a game for us, so that’s something I can tell the guys here at Notts.
Ultimately, you left Leicestershire to play Division One. Hypothetically, if Notts had a terrible season and went down, would that affect what you do?
Oh no, not at all. Not at all. It’s a great club. I’m looking to get better and better as a player and I think this is a place where I can do that. We’ve got some great coaches, as I said, and great senior players in the team. There’s also good young talent coming through so Notts are in a great place at the moment and it’s where I want to be.
What are your personal targets for the season?
To score heavily in all forms of the game, to be consistent, and not worry about anything else to be honest – just taking things one game at a time and not getting too distracted by any England ambitions. Concentrating on my own game and winning games for Nottinghamshire.