Yorkshire president Jane Powell has been speaking about her first year in the role for a feature which will be published in the 2024 yearbook……
“I for one am looking forward to us pushing for promotion. I’m very confident we’ll get it as well.”
Yorkshire’s president Jane Powell is ushering in 2024 with supreme confidence, a feeling which she shares for not just the men’s side but the Yorkshire Diamonds and the county’s Disability champions, the latter an area which is strongly linked to her day job with the England and Wales Cricket Board.
But, as she talks for this Yorkshire Yearbook feature, she also reflects on 2023 – her first year in post – with significant fondness: “I’ve had a great time, I really have,” she said.
To give her full title, Dr Jane Powell is a former England women’s cricket captain. She played six Test Matches, including scoring a century against India at Blackpool, and 24 One-Day Internationals between 1984 and 1990. She captained England in a World Cup final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1988 and is a Championship winner with Yorkshire.
Powell, whose twin sister Jill also played Test Cricket for England, has also played international hockey and badminton at junior representative level and has coached in hockey and cricket as well as working in administration in both said sports as well as Lacrosse.
Awards have come along the way for the former batter, perhaps the most significant coming in November 2013 when she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Science) from the University of Worcester for outstanding contribution to British Sport. Shortly after being appointed as Yorkshire’s president, she was awarded MCC Honorary Life Membership.
Mind you, if you think her career has been a full one so far, you should see her list of presidential duties since taking over the role from Geoff Cope in March, with her being appointed as Yorkshire’s first ever female president.
Functions and dinners attended, matches visited, media interviews done, BBC local radio commentary stints undertaken, cricket society chats delivered and awards handed out. It is a list as long as your arm.
“I’ve done my best to get around, and I’ve really enjoyed it. That’s the top line,” she said. “If nothing else, you’ll get what you see with me. I won’t say something if I’m not going to do it. At times it’s been hard work getting to different places. But, ultimately, it’s been absolutely worth it.
“I’ve really enjoyed meeting a number of different people, all associated with Yorkshire Cricket in many different ways. It’s just been amazing to see all the work that goes on from so many people who commit vast chunks of their time to promote cricket within our county.
“I did a South Yorkshire women’s presentation evening, and the room was filled. I’m told it’s one of the smaller sections and yet there were 150 people in the room all so passionate about their cricket. It’s fascinating to see all the good that’s going on.”
Powell does not hide away from the fact the county club has endured difficult times over the last few years. She references it when giving her summary of last season’s performances for Yorkshire’s first team, which we will get to in a moment.
“There’s loads of good things going on, and we shouldn’t be shy to shout about it,” she said.
We then asked Powell what she’s learnt about Yorkshire Cricket during her time in post so far and whether there was anything she didn’t know which has taken her by surprise.
“The depth of the impact that Yorkshire Cricket has on people, for the good,” she continued. “I was aware of it, certainly, but the extent of it has pleasantly surprised me.
“The pathways getting all the free equipment and things like that. What a massive bonus that is for our young players who can play freely without having to worry about being out of pocket.
“The engagement we have with different communities is fantastic. I was lucky enough to be down at Lord’s when one of our schools from Batley way finished in the final of the Table Cricket.
“There’s stuff that goes on that we just don’t know about because there’s so much that’s going on. For example, I didn’t realise all the events the club does for the various faiths; a Diwali dinner, an Iftar for Ramadan, a Christmas gathering (Powell took part in a Question and Answer session at the latter at the start of December).
“I’ve always known we are a proud county, but I’ve seen that pride in more ways than I expected.
“I talk about pride being personal responsibility in delivering excellence, and I think we’re making that happen. People are taking responsibility and making sure that the area they’re involved in is doing things properly.
“The waiting room which has been done up for the parents who wait for their kids on the pathway is one of those things. It’s fantastic, because we don’t just want the parents sitting in their cars on cold nights in the winter. These are the little things which can go amiss, but they’re ones being done properly.”
Born in Sheffield – Powell was in the same class at school as Lord Sebastian Coe – she is currently based in Silverstone. Formula One country. Talking of vehicles for a second, upon taking on the role of president, the Steel City native bought a static caravan in Hawkesworth, near Guiseley: “I decided I needed a base up here, so I’m now the proud owner of a brand new caravan in Moor Valley Country Park,” she said, earlier in the year.
That aforementioned ‘to do’ list includes trips to watch Yorkshire teams up and down the country, the first teams of the men and the Diamonds as well as the Disability D40 national champions. She has also been to men’s and women’s second-team fixtures, keeping a keen eye on the next generation of talent.
“We would have finished third in Division Two without the deduction, which is a pretty good effort given the toll it took on the players. That’s certainly something we can build on,” she said, firstly, of the men. “We need to get Yorkshire back up to Division One. That’s where we should be.“We did get scuppered by the weather, but we also lacked a bit of a killer touch at the start of the season. That first game against Leicester, we bowled poorly and let them back in and they managed to get over the line and beat us.
“We did all the hard work and then let it slip. That was the case for that first game, and then there were a few 10th-wicket partnerships which delayed us here and there. But a lot of the lads are young players, and they’ll learn.
“It was actually a big bonus – we were able to give a lot of our youngsters a real depth of experience. And a number of them came to the party big time. Look at the partnerships Finlay’s (Bean) had with Adam (Lyth). We have an opening partnership there which could really take us forwards. They’re starting to be one of those widely renowned opening partnerships with the weight of runs they scored.
“It’s been a difficult summer because of the penalties, but we used it well and will come back stronger next year. I’m hoping that we’ve turned a corner now and we can move positively into the new season.”
Powell was actually presented with a Diamonds cap by skipper Hollie Armitage as a welcome gift from the team before an early-season fixture.
Of their performances, she said: “I thought they played some good cricket, but they were unlucky with the weather.
“The one game where things turned in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy was the Central Sparks fixture at Headingley when the Sparks were favoured in a Duckworth Lewis chase despite us batting pretty well. Had that game gone our way, I’m sure we’d have made the play-offs.
“But you win or you learn, and that’s something Dani Hazell’s spoken a lot about. I think she’s quite pleased with the way that things are progressing for them.
“They, like the lads, have a lot of young players coming through who have got good experience behind them. I just hope they can make the most of that and get back into contention.”
In contention was something which Yorkshire’s D40 side were in the National Quest League, of course, claiming a stunning title success.
Powell’s day job with the England and Wales Cricket Board sees her as Performance Manager for England Disability Cricket, spending a decent portion of her winter travelling to places such as South Africa and India with the respective national teams.
On Yorkshire’s triumph, she said: “It was a massive achievement for them, and here’s a team who only got promoted last year. They’ve only gone on and won the County Championship, and what a great credit to everyone they are
“It was nip and tuck right the way to the end, and there are some great stalwarts there who deserve a lot of recognition. Owen Jervis does some great work behind the scenes, and then you have Gordon Laidlaw who has been around a long time. What a wonderful career he’s had. It’s just so nice to see them be successful and get the recognition they deserve.
“But it’s a tough gig because they’ll be expected to do the same. But that’s what good teams do. There’s no reason why they can’t.”
More widely on the topic of Disability Cricket, she said: “It’s in a very good place. But it’s like a lot of things. We need to shout about it because there are people out there who don’t know too much about it. It’s almost like a hidden treasure because they get a lot of support from the ECB and can live out all the dreams they have. It’s a fantastic environment to be in.”
Powell’s international travels either side of Christmas have seen her watch the England Learning Disability side win a T20 tri-series in South Africa, seeing off the hosts and Australia. Yorkshire players Alex Jervis and Rob Hewitt were on that tour. She will also travel to India with the Physical Disability squad in the New Year. Yorkshireman Liam Thomas will be involved in that series.
Unfortunately, sandwiched in between was due to be the Deaf World Cup in Qatar, for which Yorkshire trio James O’Conner, Cameron Sweeney and Henry Wainman had been selected – the former two for the first time in their careers. However, that December competition was called off at the last minute.
But Powell, referring to all of Yorkshire’s international representatives at all levels, added: “Having played in England teams, you know everyone values the passion that Yorkshire men and women have. You know that if they’re selecting a Yorkshire player, they’ll give it everything to win.
“I grew up at a time of my dad telling me, ‘When Yorkshire’s strong, England’s strong’. It was true then and is now.”
It is clear that president Powell has met the great and good in her first year in post. And another thing is even clearer, there is plenty that is great about Yorkshire Cricket and plenty that is good. Let’s hope that is reflected further in 2024.