The Past and Future of Women’s Cricket in Somerset

Reflections from interviews with Kieran Peters and Jan Godman – article contributed by Matt Kingdom

An audio version of this article is added here

In September 2023, I sat down with Kieran Peters and Jan Godman to discuss the history and state of the Somerset Women’s cricket team, and the wider themes of their careers and cricket in the South West.

Jan Godman played cricket for Somerset on-and-off between 2000 and 2011, often combining her playing role with coaching and administrative duties. She also played for Somerset’s predecessor team, West Women, between 1995 and 1998, and for England between 1991 and 1996. She was still playing county cricket, for Buckinghamshire, until 2019, and remains involved in club cricket as a player and coach.

Kieran Peters is the current Pathway Coach and Women and Girls’ Lead at Somerset CCC. This is a brand new full-time role at the club, and includes primary oversight of the Somerset Women first team. Kieran is also heavily involved in age-group cricket across both Somerset’s boys’ and girls’ programs.

Therefore, over the course of both of the interviews, I got an insight into the formation, development, current state, and future of Somerset Women and its role within the county.

Part One: If you wanted a game of cricket, you organised it

In 1998, the Women’s Cricket Association (WCA) voted to join the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). The WCA had run women’s cricket since the 1920s, independently from men’s cricket, but, with concerns especially about funding, the time had come to bring women’s cricket under the same umbrella as the men’s game. This move meant big changes for women’s cricket, including in the South West. Up until this point, the primary women’s cricket team in the area had been West Women, made up of players from across the South West and Wales. Now, under the ECB, counties were the order of the day. Jan was key in setting-up the new Somerset team, negotiating with various parties. Effectively, the West team morphed into Somerset, as the county most prepared to host a women’s team – it would take the other South West counties another five or so years to get going. This meant that the original Somerset team was still broadly representative, with players coming from Wales and further south west in order to get a good standard of cricket.

Jan’s quote that “if you wanted a game of cricket, you organised it” rang through the whole interview. Jan’s mother, Pat Siderfin, had been key in running the Thames Valley team during Jan’s youth. It fell to Jan herself, a player, to make sure that Somerset were set up ready for their County Championship debut in 2000. She would go on to be a player-coach (voluntary, of course) for Somerset throughout their early years – she didn’t take on the captaincy too, as that would have been a step too far! Key figures from Somerset County Cricket Club helped out – Development Officer Andrew Moulding and Treasurer John Davey helped with funding and grants – but mostly the running of the team was left to those who were playing, taking on the behind-the-scenes roles out of pure love of cricket.

Of course, in Kieran Peters, Somerset Women now have their first full-time, paid, leader. Things have at least moved on in that respect, and at least at regional level women’s cricket can be a profession for players, who will also have to worry less about also organising their own matches and making sure food is provided! However, at county level, there is still some of that same feeling. The ECB now only officially run one competition for women’s county teams, the Women’s County T20, which is over by mid-May. In 2023, Somerset Women only played two ECB-run matches due to rain, a season over and done with in a day. All of this done, too, on a very small budget allocation. Therefore, that sense of organising your own games of cricket comes through again, with Somerset Women, in collaboration with Western Storm, organising a series of 50-over matches against neighbouring counties. These matches were key to the development of Somerset’s cricketers, the professional women’s cricketers of the future: without people passionate about the women’s game stepping in to fill a shortfall, these matches simply wouldn’t happen.

Part Two: Getting girls playing cricket

Both interviews seemed to keep circling around the same point: getting girls into the game, enjoying the game, and simply playing matches of cricket. Jan has seen a development in this across her career. When she was involved in Somerset Cricket, all girls ringing up looking for cricket were sent her way, so that she could find them a club somewhere, anywhere, where they could play – she would never turn any interested player away. Now, of course, as women’s cricket becomes more prominent and grows around the world, more and more girls are taking up the sport and looking for opportunities. There’s still some way to go: numbers are still down compared to participating in boys’ and men’s cricket, and getting matches of a high standard can still require long-distance travel. However, the expansion is evident in how busy Kieran Peters is, to keep on top of the Girls’ Pathway, shuttling between under-11, under-13, under-15, under-18 and senior teams as they play across the county. 

One thing that is evident is how this had led to a demographic change in those taking-up women’s cricket. It is perhaps easy to romanticise the players of the amateur era, playing for the love of the game. But this also meant that access to women’s cricket was restricted to those who could afford to play – both in terms of funding their travel and taking time off work to play. Jan was never paid to play cricket, instead paying to play, including for her tour of Australia and New Zealand with the England team. Seeing as players effectively had to be coaches, fixtures secretaries, administrators and any number of other roles too in addition to simply playing, this meant that a love of cricket led to taking on at least an equivalent to a part-time job alongside the daily rigours of life: school, jobs, families, maybe even some free time! Whilst those that loved it were happy to do these additional duties, one cannot help but wonder how many were lost to the game because they were simply unable to commit the amount of time required.

Things are changing, of course. Women’s cricket is now a viable career, and pathways such as that run by Somerset CCC allow an easier route into the game. Both Jan and Kieran emphasised the importance of simply getting girls playing, still. At club-level, and in Somerset’s 50-over matches this year, and emphasis remains on making sure every player gets opportunities to bat and bowl, to allow a love for the game to be expressed and make sure girls keep coming back week after week.

Part Three: Share what’s going on

This year, for the first time, the Somerset CCC website included previews and reviews of Somerset Women’s matches. Somerset Women played their Women’s County T20 Finals Day at the County Ground, winning under the floodlights. They wore kit aligned with the men’s team for the first time, and produced their own version of the ‘Behind the Wyvern’ series. There is the sense that, despite the devaluation of women’s county cricket at the national level, Somerset CCC, and hopefully Somerset fans, are taking a greater interest in their women’s team. Kieran has strong aspirations for the direction of the team, to build on this platform. More 50-over cricket and an expanded Winter programme, to give players more opportunity to play together (currently, Somerset Women are effectively a summer-only team) are top of his priority list. This all goes hand-in-hand with communicating about what Somerset Women are up to, and hopefully getting more spectators to matches, whether they are playing at the County Ground or further afield. 

On thing that Kieran was keen to emphasise, however, was for supporters to manage their expectations. The ECB provide little funding or directives for women’s county cricket, and the set-up for Somerset Women is far removed from that of the men’s side – vastly less matches, training opportunities and attention. Getting aligned kit with the men was the first step this season; the next step is for each player to get their own individual playing shirts, with names and numbers. It’s this kind of incremental change that is the goal for Kieran and his team, with larger changes much more difficult to implement: for him, it’s simply about “trying to make the programme as good as we possibly can, with the resources that we’ve got available”.

Somerset have produced some excellent cricketers over the years, becoming household names. Jan pointed out the importance of role models for girls getting into the game, with Anya Shrubsole, Sophie Luff and Lauren Filer surely key examples of players to hold in great esteem. Under Kieran’s leadership, I am sure that the next generation of role models are emerging!

It was a joy to hear Jan reminisce about winning the 1993 World Cup with England at Lord’s, as well as recalling her many seasons playing at Cambridge with West and Somerset at the Women’s County Championship, including scoring “a lot of runs on a hot day” against Cheshire (for the record, it was 117* in a 190-run win in 2001). It was also extremely interesting to hear about how Somerset Women currently function with Kieran, as well as debating our many ideas for the future of women’s cricket! 

Overall, it is clear that women’s cricket in Somerset is in good hands.

My thanks to Kieran Peters and Jan Godman for taking the time out of their busy schedules to speak to me. Also thanks to Roz Tritton, Nicky Tranter and Mark Gladman for further conversations about the history of women’s cricket in Somerset. If you have a past association with Somerset Women, West Women or Western Storm, please do contact the Somerset Cricket Museum – I’d love to hear from you about your memories!