Sarah Taylor: England wicketkeeper-batter takes break to deal with anxiety

By Joe WilsonBBC News sports correspondent
Sarah Taylor opens up about anxiety issues

England wicketkeeper-batter Sarah Taylor has taken a break from cricket because of debilitating panic attacks.

Taylor, widely regarded as one of the most talented female cricketers in the world, was the first woman to play first-grade men's cricket in Australia.

The 27-year-old says she has suffered from anxiety, which she describes as a "mental injury", for almost four years.

"My health is the most important thing and unfortunately my cricket has to come second," she told BBC Sport.

Taylor, who has played 101 one-day internationals, added: "I would like to say I'm 99% sure I will play cricket again.

"Taking time out is a way to try and fix me as a person and prolong my career. I want to put an England shirt on again. I want to train with the girls, I miss them terribly."

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said in May that Taylor was taking an "indefinite break" from the game.

She has missed the start of Sussex's domestic season and, as it stands, will be absent from England's summer series against Pakistan, as well as the inaugural Women's Super League, which starts in July.

Taylor said she could only properly address her mental challenges now she had taken a break, as the sport acted as a distraction.

She spoke exclusively to BBC Sport during a week in which global research estimated four in every 100 people experience anxiety, with women and young people under 35 particularly affected.

"You have to hit the bottom of the pool in order to swim up," Taylor said. "I'd like to think I've hit the bottom of the pool in the last month or so.

"At its worst, it's a panic attack. On a cricket field it happened mainly when I was about to bat, the expectation of wanting to score runs was the hardest. The nerves would hit me but it would be nerves plus something else.

"I was always confused as to what it was but now I know; it's a genuine kind of panic. The heart races, you kind of feel faint, those are things I go through.

"There have been times when I've had to run off into the changing rooms and be sick sometimes, through sheer panic."

England spinner Monty Panesar said last month he had learned to accept he needs medication to help him deal with mental illness.

I got paranoid and depressed - Panesar

Taylor said she had been given confidence by those who have spoken about mental health issues, and thanked new England women's coach Mark Robinson and the ECB for their support.

''I've been in talks with Mark for the last couple of months and he's just set an environment that is so open and honest," she said.

"I don't want any stigma attached. The same strategies are in place to deal with this as there would be for any physical injuries.

"The fact you know that other people are going through the same thing and it's normal - that's been the biggest insight for me."

Speaking to BBC Sport was part of the process Taylor is going through - taking on small challenges on a daily basis, along with receiving professional help.

"I'm going through cognitive behavioural therapy," she said. "It's just a process to talk about everything, to give yourself little challenges every day to help you deal with it.

"Obviously my cricket has been affected massively but ultimately my personal life has been affected more. My day-to-day battles are huge.

"It's a case of being realistic and knowing that I will do everything within my power to become healthy, to put myself in a position again where I can play.

"I can't say that's going to happen but in a positive way I want to play cricket again. I hope to be back."

Sarah Taylor playing for Northern Districts in the West End Premier Cricket Competition
In October 2015, Taylor made history by becoming the first woman to play Australian first-grade cricket

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