“I have always tried to set goals for myself, stuff like scoring a certain number of runs for England or being part of a World Cup-winning team. But this was never something that had even occurred to me.”
So writes Claire Taylor in today’s Daily Telegraph, after she had been included in Wisden Almanck‘s annual list of the cricketers of the year, the first woman player ever afforded such an honour.
“Of course, it is a huge honour for me personally to be recognised in this way. But it is also great for women’s cricket as a whole. I think it shows how far the game has come, and how much more respect we receive these days,” writes Taylor.
“When I look back at some of the famous names who have been selected over the years, it is quite a surreal feeling. I have just been inducted into one of the most exclusive clubs in sport. W G Grace, Don Bradman, Shane Warne … and now me!”
Matthew Engel, the former editor of Wisden, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, endorsed the judgment of Scyld Berry, the current incumbent, in the choice, indicating that he and two of his predecessors had considered including a woman among their players of the year, and that England’s victory in the World Cup last month was the perfect endorsement of the decision, which had been made before Christmas.
The 2009 volume is the 146th edition of Wisden, which has been published every year since 1864. The first edition was priced at 1 shilling. A complete set of the annual, if auctioned today, would be expected to fetch Â£500,000.
The Five Cricketers of the Year dates back to 1889, making this the oldest individual award in cricket. The selection of the five is the responsibility of the editor, and is usually based on performances in the previous calendar year, although as Wisden’s own website concedes, historically excellence in the previous English summer is a major criterion for inclusion.
But David Hopps, in his blog at Guardian.co.uk, does gently question any significance some might seek to add to the choice of Taylor.
“It is too cynical to regard Wisden‘s anointment of Claire Taylor as one of its five Cricketers of the Year as solely a marketing triumph. It is unfair to the wonderful performances of the England women’s team and it is unjust to Scyld Berry, Wisden‘s editor, who has a knack for independent thought, which deserves to be respected â€“ nay, applauded.
“A marketing triumph, nevertheless, it is.”
Hopps goes on to argue that of greater significance in the development of the women’s game is the ECB’s Chance to Shine development scheme, which employs 10 members of the England women’s team on modest salaries to coach schoolchildren, when they are not beating Australia in Ashes Tests.
Taylor also admires the scheme. “It has given the girls so many opportunities,” Taylor tells Hopps. “It builds respect for the women’s game amongst boys. They see the skills and the passion for the game from the girls. The girls also gain confidence as well about playing alongside boys or, if they wish, learn how they can play in after-school clubs for girls only.”
Says Hopps: “Such words are so much more important than wondering superficially whether Taylor’s award has embarrassed England’s men or whether, just as ridiculously, an award from a cricket annual has now set England’s women on the road to stardom… Ashes victories and World Cup wins are not achieved by media recognition.”
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