By Luke Baker
FOR the first time in more than a quarter of a century, Paul Grayson was afforded a quiet summer last year. He didn’t enjoy it.
So when offered the opportunity to mastermind Yorkshire Diamonds’ assault on the Kia Super League, the former England all-rounder jumped at the chance – signing a three-year deal to become head coach.
After making his first-class debut for Yorkshire in 1990, a 15-year professional career followed for Grayson, before he took up coaching post-retirement.
He was appointed as Essex head coach in July 2007, but left by mutual consent eight years later and although he joined Durham MCC University, his schedule for the summer of 2016 was disconcertingly open once term had finished.
Twelve months on, the 45-year-old won’t have any such worries as he looks to help the Diamonds improve on a fifth-place finish in last year’s inaugural Super League – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It was interesting last year because it was my first summer off in 25 years in terms of July, August and September,” said Grayson.
“It felt a little bit strange that I wasn’t really doing any work. There were a few bits going on but not too much.
“For the last 25 years, especially when you’re coaching, it’s the busiest time of the year because the games are coming thick and fast.
“It did feel odd to be at home and not doing an awful lot and I think I was getting under my wife’s feet a little bit as well!
“So this will give me a nice opportunity to have a small bit of time off when term-time finishes but then go again and work with the Diamonds. The timings work really well and it’s something I’m looking forward to and really excited about.”
Grayson replaces Richard Pyrah at the Diamonds helm, with the 34-year-old now assisting his former team-mate Andrew Gale with first-team affairs at Headingley.
After just one victory from five games in last season’s Super League, there is plenty of room for improvement from the Diamonds this time around.
They did at least beat arch-rivals Lancashire Thunder for that sole triumph – a 95-run demolition at Old Trafford – and Grayson is confident there is plenty to build on.
“Having spoken to Richard Pyrah, the girls found some decent form by the end of the competition last year but it was too late,” he added.
“We’re currently talking about which overseas players to bring in but the nucleus of the squad is very strong.
“With it only being five games, it’s vital you hit the ground running, get some early wins and pick up momentum.
“That will be the key – if you get out of the blocks slowly, you’re out of the competition.
“The way the players practise their skills is the same as the men’s game, so I don’t think there will be much of a transition for me in terms of coaching.
“I’ve got to start building a few relationships, so that will take a little time but we’ll have a two-week training camp beforehand.”
The 2017 Kia Super League kicks off in August and Grayson’s first test is another mouth-watering clash against Lancashire Thunder at Headingley – set to be shown live on Sky Sports.
Sky will be broadcasting domestic women’s cricket for the first time this season and Grayson is convinced he couldn’t have asked for a more exciting time to be getting involved in the women’s game.
“Within five years I think women’s cricket will be massive all around the world,” added Grayson.
“We’ve got the Super League here, then there’s the Big Bash in Australia and there has been talk about an IPL tournament as well.
“It’s a good time to be involved in women’s cricket, so I’m genuinely excited. Hopefully my experience and knowledge can really help them.
“It’s great that Sky are supporting us and personally, we have two games on TV. The first one against the Lankies at home, so there will be a bit of needle in that one!
“It’s great to have that exposure on TV and the profile of women’s cricket will be taken to a new level.”
Unsurprisingly for a man born in Ripon, Grayson is relishing the chance to rejoin his home county – who he hasn’t been involved with since leaving to play for Essex in 1995.
He is continuing his role at Durham MCCU but couldn’t turn down the chance to once again link up with Yorkshire.
“It’s nice to be back at Yorkshire again,” he said. “I’m living in North Yorkshire, about 40 minutes south of Durham and 40 minutes north of Leeds, so logistics-wise it’s working quite well.
“I started my career at Yorkshire and it’s a very special county. It’s a massive club, so hopefully we can play some good cricket at the Diamonds.”