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Replacing batsman with a gender-neutral term is a sign that cricket has changed. That’s good news

Cricket in the 21st century is nothing like it once was — a “gentleman’s” sport tied up with class and feudal notions of gentility in Britain and with the “civilising” force of the empire in the colonies.

By: Editorial |
Updated: September 24, 2021 8:01:26 am
The future of any sport in 2021 rests on how many doors it can open to a diversity of talent.

It was a long innings. But the “batsman” is finally out, making space for the “batter”. The change in terminology, according to the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the authority on the game’s laws, helps “reinforce cricket’s status as an inclusive game for all”. And this is just as it should be. When women’s cricket, once dismissed as the also-ran version of the “real game”, has proved its ability to draw crowds, bust records and produce cricketing heroes, the shift in language is a sign that the sporting establishment is catching up. There are those, like British journalist Piers Morgan, known to see the collapse of civilisation at even the slightest stumble towards change, who have been triggered into outrage. Others find the new word awkward on the tongue, so strong is the hold of habit. Fact: In a playground of “fielders”, “bowlers”, “wicket-keepers” and “umpires”, it was “batsman” that was as odd as a powerplay in Test cricket.

Cricket in the 21st century is nothing like it once was — a “gentleman’s” sport tied up with class and feudal notions of gentility in Britain and with the “civilising” force of the empire in the colonies. Well, the former colonies have gone on to own the game, turning it into a desi spectacle, a money-spinning one, that cannot be played with a stiff upper lip. Even the Aussies blush when they read Virat Kohli’s lips. Women too were not welcome, with the MCC reluctantly opening its doors to female members as late as 1998.

But the future of any sport in 2021 rests on how many doors it can open to a diversity of talent. Cricket must be glad that it has fresh blood, male and female, running through its veins. If that means finding a better word for “third man” and “nightwatchman”, what’s to lose?

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on September 24, 2021 under the title ‘Batter takes guard’.

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