Watch the ball.

Some of us can remember (faintly – if I dare use the word in this context) when David Coleman described Asa Hartford as a whole- hearted player. He was. But unfortunately for the Beeb’s lead commentator (and owner/inventor of the Colemanballs phenomenon) he also famously had a hole in his heart, making this a headline-grabber of a booboo, for which the purveyor of the similarly memorable

Juantorena opens his legs… and shows his class!

could only profusely and publicly apologise. The world forgave him and re-positioned before the footie, or athletics, and/or virtually everything else and waited… for the next one.

I haven’t yet heard James Taylor described as a lovably titchy but big-hearted bloke but I expect the moment is coming. Because he plainly is. How else could he haul himself into contention in such a defiantly gutsy, as well as impressively cool fashion? And how else could he stand at short leg – three foot two from the sweet spot – and watch the ball into his outstretched hand whilst knowing this baybee’s reeeaally gonna hurt? If you were reaching for a word to describe the fella’s essence it might unavoidably be some extension of or derivative from that deliciously evocative bundle of letters h.e.a.r.t.

Taylor is smallish but appears implacable in the face of that contemporary international standard – Attack of the Psyched-up Beanpoles. He seems as comfortable as most when the cherry’s whistling around his ears. There are fascinating arguments around whether his strikingly human scale enables or complicates his playing of the quicks but what seems reasonably clear is his ability to deal with that stuff. He’s a bonafide player (in at least two formats) in the highish middle order.

Goes without saying that Taylor’s agility helps in both the rough and tumble of the field and in terms of his batting: good to be tiggerish and tigerish when you’re up against spin and speed, eh?

But hold: we’ve drifted into the wrong tense. Sadly James’s playing, his actual cricket, is done. Let’s doff our caps amiably and respectfully by noting his all round and genuinely full contribution, without either being maudlin or patronising the lad in any way. He was a proper international player; he was kosher and compact and I liked his style: that latter point being important (I hope.)

But this is not an obituary. James Taylor is bright and capable and by all accounts a great bloke to have around. Cricket is saying

we need you, fella.

Offers are already being made with respect to roles which may be helpfully or otherwise gathered under the ‘ambassadorial’ category. Naturally and rightfully. Whilst there is inevitably something sentimental about such developments the harder-headed truth would be that most of us might expect him to make a further real and intelligent contribution to his county – to the game. That’s what he does.

Of  course that frisson around Taylor’s condition lingers. We can’t know what’s viable on this – not for some weeks or months. If it’s unthinkable for him to hurl himself around then playing avenues have been closed: that’s the hurtful but easy bit. Where that leaves him in terms of the do-able will be a longer game, a test match-like, tactical resolving of deep meaningful things which I’m again confident Taylor is well-equipped to deal with. It’s another kind of dance around another kind of bouncer.

I can get away with saying that, I reckon. I’m *entitled*. Check out my upper left chest where there’s a quirky wee bulge -referred to in the Walton household as my ‘canna sardines’. It’s an At Rest pacemaker, the result of my own freakish heart issues. If nothing else it levers open the opportunity to indulge in voice-of-experience paternalism towards the boyish Mr Taylor and sorree but I’m not entirely inclined to pass up such an opening.

I can say stuff like

James, this really is just a beginning.


Jimmy lad, the world *really might* be just about energy. And there really might be a way to understand everything as being invincible… or not. And you might choose (like me) to believe that your own being is in proportion to your belief in the invincibility of your own energy. This is not foolhardy. This is predicated on knowledge and awareness of where you’re at: it just frees you up to be fearless and good – to express your new maximum.

I might say that, if I got past security with my grapes and my takeaway…. and past the introductory flannel.

JT’s ‘situation’ is not the same as mine – that’s true in so many ways. But I do get some of the bewilderment and disappointment and fear he will surely be feeling, as do so many others. We’re united in the flux. What I decided pretty sharpish was to defy it.

So no space for loss. No space either for daft, dangerous, recklessness. Instead find that calm and that steeliness. Watch the ball, in fact. Then hit it where you choose.

I hope the above renders the brief, soul-brotherly, sub-van Goghian ‘hearty handshake’ I’m about to offer superfluous. I hope Titch (and everybody else) get that I’m looking to offer something a tad more inspiring than sympathy.

Hearts are the most remarkable things- maybe irrespective of condition. Tick through the list of  skills which take them soaring past mere functionality: from generosity, defiance, courage and on to love. Remind yourself how endlessly, endlessly wonderful they are. Then come on, big boy. Gimme that hug.



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