This January, James Taylor had played alongside Ben Stokes, and Joe Root, in what turned out to be his final Test match © Getty Images
Joe Root and Ben Stokes have expressed their shock and sympathy for James Taylor, their England team-mate, who was forced into sudden retirement last week, at the age of 26, following the diagnosis of a serious heart condition.
However, both men have also admitted their relief that his condition was discovered before it could have had tragic consequences.
Taylor played alongside both Root and Stokes in the last of his seven Tests, against South Africa at Centurion in January, and had been expecting to resume his middle-order role for the forthcoming series against Sri Lanka.
However, he admitted himself to hospital earlier this month after complaining of illness during Nottinghamshire’s match against Cambridge MCCU at Fenner’s. There he was diagnosed with the rare condition, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, and advised that his career had to come to an immediate end.
Taylor underwent a preliminary procedure at Nottingham City Hospital earlier this week, with a view to having a defibrillator fitted at a later date. On Thursday he tweeted a photo of himself outside the building, with the caption: “Well that has been one hell of an experience. What a beautiful day!”
“It was a huge shock,” said Root, who hopes to catch up with Taylor in person when Yorkshire travel to Trent Bridge for their County Championship fixture next week. “I was away when I found out, it was horrible to hear such sad news, [but] it’s great to see him back out of hospital now.”
Root admitted that he, like the rest of the England squad, had never been given any inkling of Taylor’s illness, least of all during the punishing fitness work that helped to persuade the selectors that he had the right mentality to succeed at international level.
“He’s the fittest guy in the squad,” Root said. “He loved that side of his cricket. His work ethic has always been outstanding, he was very dedicated and he had a strong focus of trying to be the fittest guy in the squad. You could see that from his body shape and the work he did out on the field. I really hope he can come back from it, and find something that he enjoys doing as much as he loved playing cricket.”
For Stokes, the news of Taylor’s condition offered some stark perspective following the disappointment he suffered in the World T20 final in Kolkata earlier this month, when he was struck for four consecutive sixes by Carlos Brathwaite in the final over of the match.
“I’ll be able to play again, unfortunately Titch won’t,” Stokes said. “But he seems to be in decent fettle for the news that he got.
“I think he realises, and we realise, that the best thing to come out of this is that he’s still alive. Some people are less fortunate than that.”
“Obviously it’s devastating for us because me and Joe, we’ve played with Titch since we were 14 or 15,” Stokes added. “So he’ll be a massive loss for England going forward, as he was just starting to make his name in one-day and Test cricket. But it’s a massive perspective, not just on cricket life, but life in general. It’s just good to see him walk away with his life, really.”
Though both men admitted that the coming days and months would provide the toughest challenge of Taylor’s life, they are confident that he has the mental strength to find a way to fight through.
“For anyone to be told that news, it would be extremely hard to overcome it, but that’s one thing about Titch’s character,” Root said. “He’s very strong and it’s admirable the way he has dealt with it.
“You can see on social media the support that he has had, not just from cricket fans but from all walks of life. That’s given him a lot of confidence. It’s pleasing to see the cricket family, if you like, looking out for him. I’m sure he really appreciates that.”
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo