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Feature

From batsman to batter - 'a significant step towards making cricket more inclusive'

Sthalekar, Bishop, Goswami, Clark, Vettori, Dravid, Guha and others welcome the switch from "batsmen" to "batters"

"Cricket is just cricket, but we can't accept that men's cricket is the default anymore, not in 2021"  •  ICC via Getty

"Cricket is just cricket, but we can't accept that men's cricket is the default anymore, not in 2021"  •  ICC via Getty

ESPNcricinfo recently switched from the traditional "batsmen" to the gender-neutral "batters". Here, a cross-section of cricketers, former and current, female and male, tell us what they think of the change.
Lisa Sthalekar
It is certainly something I know within Australia that we have been very conscious about. Even covering the WBBL when that was formed, the commentators Andy Maher, Mel Jones and myself really wanted to change the language to make it more inclusive. So we started to use batter, and it's actually been a fascinating journey because we had female broadcasters around the world that were still saying batsman. And I still remember, in the 2017 [women's ODI] World Cup, we were all together, and we had quite a robust discussion, saying, "Well, you know what? I am used to it. It is how it's always said over here." I guess the conversation was around if we don't change it, who will? We'll just accept it and keep moving on.
I think what's really important is, and maybe some males do not get it, is when you say "batsmen" or "Man of the Match" or when you say, "hey, boys" when you are in the backyard and you do this, girls kind of tune out because you are not talking to them or they don't feel like you are talking to them. And that may not be the case for everyone. But, I guess, as commentators, we are trying to be as inclusive as possible. And there are men and women and boys and girls watching and listening to the game. So, why not use language that is inclusive to everyone that's listening?
Ian Bishop
I think it is respectful. Some people will say it is semantics, some people will say it is politically correct. No, I think it is trying to create a sense of equity even in the naming, the branding, the wording that we use in bringing parity to the men's and the women's game. I applaud ESPNcricinfo. I applaud all the stakeholders, who are willing to bring that balance to gender neutrality.
The other thing is that having covered the women's game, one of the things that I myself and many other commentators (see is) that sometimes you kept slipping back into the articulation and the wording that you are accustomed to. In this way, I think future generations of writers and broadcasters would be able to more easily slip into the right terminologies. Some may look at it and snide at it, but I think it is absolutely the right thing to do.
Belinda Clark
This is important to me because language matters in the quest for an inclusive world. In fact, I have been using the term for quite some time to describe the player with the bat in hand. The other tricky one is third rather than third man, 12th instead of 12th man. Over the last few years, with the increase of TV coverage and increase of female commentators, the term batter, third, and 12th are starting to become the norm. It makes it easier for the commentator, the viewer, the players, umpires. It normalises the very fact that the sport is played by both males and females.
Jhulan Goswami
In my near-two-decades-long international career, I've often wondered why the media keeps using "sportsman" and "sportswoman" instead of "sportsperson". Similarly, I find it absurd that most people, brands and media organisations celebrate women only on International Women's Day. So, for a media outlet like ESPNcricinfo to initiate a process to normalise gender-neutral terms like "batter" and "Player of the Match" for all cricketers is a significant step towards making cricket a more inclusive game.
I congratulate ESPNcricinfo and thank them for bringing about this change, and I hope other organisations will follow suit, because it's an aspect of our sport that I have often discussed with my team-mates, and I am glad to see that journalists are also doing their bit to mainstream this conversation.
Rahul Dravid
Providing an equal playing field is a sporting ideal and cricket adopting gender-neutral terms can only be welcomed. We are conditioned to use the word "batsman" because that's how it has always been. But, if you think about it, all the other playing roles are gender neutral. Cricket has been evolving in every possible way, as has language. This is a progressive move for cricket towards contemporary sensibilities.
Shikha Pandey
Firstly, introducing and trying to normalise the usage of gender-neutral terms and expressions like "batter" and "Player of the Series" in cricket coverage is very important. While it might seem like a small step, it is one that, according to me, will result in huge positive developments. When a media organisation like ESPNcricinfo takes a step forward and introduces gender-neutral terms, a simple message gets sent across: we are living in a society, we are living in a world where the sport - the game of cricket - is for all. And it's projected and pushed that way. We want the game to grow. Huge supporters and fans of the game want the game to grow. And we want it to grow not just across countries and populations, but across genders as well. So, let's get as diverse on the growth front, as we can be. There's so much more to be done and here's hoping that this is just the beginning.
Tammy Beaumont
It's really great to see that this change has been made. Changes to language can seem small, and sometimes you can accept outdated language without even really realising it needs to be challenged, but they can make such a big difference. If you think of that little girl watching her first-ever match, and maybe thinking she wants to hit some sixes as well one day, then our game is in a much better place if the language she hears is gender-neutral.
It will continue to evolve and it's not a simple thing, but you have to respect and applaud all attempts to make our game more inclusive. I know that at the ECB, they try to ensure it's the England men's team and the England women's team, in their communications and I think that's perhaps the next step for our game. Cricket is just cricket, but we can't accept that men's cricket is the default anymore, not in 2021. It's for all of us.
Daniel Vettori
It's a great, positive move that ESPNcricinfo has originated to normalise all communications around cricket and making it gender-neutral. You see the women's game catching up with the men's game all the time. To put them on an equal footing is the right thing to do and it's great to see ESPNcricinfo at the forefront again.
I think normalising the language around cricket is a step that a lot of the younger generations would take themselves anyway. So for ESPNcricinfo to help that pathway, and to make it easier, particularly for ex-players who have grown up with a different use of terminology, it's a great starting point so that they can get on the same page as the current younger generations.
Isa Guha
It's something I've had my eyes opened to more in the last few years - the impact language can have on future generations and young girls in making cricket feel inclusive to all.
Temba Bavuma
Cricket is a game that has proven many times in the recent past that it can adapt to modern technology and societal changes of all kinds. It's pleasing that there are news agencies that are choosing to follow in the ICC's footsteps and also acknowledge the diversity of those involved in the game of cricket through their style of writing.
A lot of people will not see the benefits of this, but I recognise that in order for us to reach equality and equity in the game, it all starts with seemingly small steps like this and more conversations of this nature taking place in every boardroom around the world.