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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.