Cricket ace Fran Wilson hoping The Hundred can shatter gender perceptions and blaze a sporting trail

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Wilson, 29, will be front and centre of The Hundred's curtain-raiser as she stars for Oval Invincibles on July 21
Wilson, 29, will be front and centre of The Hundred's curtain-raiser as she stars for Oval Invincibles on July 21

Cricketer Fran Wilson grew up calling herself a ‘batsman’ without a second thought. It was simply what everyone said, writes Rachel Steinberg.

But everything will change on July 21st, when the England international plays for Oval Invincibles in the inaugural match of The Hundred—as a ‘batter’.

The new 100-ball tournament has made headlines with its jewel-toned kits, in-house DJs and promise of an electric party atmosphere.

So while ‘subtlety’ isn’t the first word that comes to mind when considering the kaleidoscopic competition, organisers have made small but significant gender-neutral shifts as part of The Hundred’s vocabulary.

Changing ‘batsman’ to ‘batter’ or ‘Man of the Match’ to ‘Hero of the Match’, they hope, will have a widespread, cross-format impact on cricket’s vernacular.

“To me, thinking back, it’s strange that it was ever batsmen,” said Wilson.

“Like, we’re not men, so why are we batsmen?

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“To me it’s just obvious. It’s a very simple thing to do, but it’s also a difficult thing to do, because everyone is so ingrained in the other stuff.

“It’s very, very important, so I always do it and hopefully it will kind of feed into the general population.”

Beth Barrett-Wild, Head of The Hundred’s women’s competition, said the conversation around language started on day one, when the team was mulling over what to name the new event.

She explained: “With the Big Bash League in Australia, you’ve got the BBL and the WBBL. The fact that it’s Women’s Big Bash league, you’ve just bolted it on. It’s not part and fabric of the competition itself.

“So we made a very conscious decision that it’s just The Hundred.

“I think it’s kind of an evolution, I suppose, as the competition has been designed, but it’s a very natural conversation and you look at it now and it’s really obvious.

“And I think actually one of the things from my perspective and what The Hundred can do in terms of its wider impact within the game is [establish] a philosophy in a way of thinking about cricket.”

The Hundred caused a brief stir in April when it was rumoured ‘wickets’ could be changed to ‘outs’.

That situation, said Barrett-Wild, was “taken a little bit out of context. I don’t think we were ever looking to remove the word ‘wicket’ when we’re talking about the actual playing conditions and the laws of cricket.

“We’ll be reviewing and evolving all the time. That’s the beauty of where we are with The Hundred at the moment.”

Fans won’t be the only ones adjusting to the new terminology—players and pundits are also thinking about how they’ll keep up.

“There are little niches like third man that [might] stay,” said Issy Wong, the 19-year-old fast bowling phenom set to sport Birmingham Phoenix orange.

“If you tell me to go to third woman, I’m like ‘where am I going? Where’s the three women?’

“[But] the overpowering message from The Hundred is equal, for everybody.

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“I think the language shift is important, because the last thing we want to do is exclude anyone from our sport.

“Cricket is for everyone. It’s the little things we can do to really get that across to people.

“The world is changing. People are going to make mistakes, but as long as it’s going in the right direction, I think that’s really positive.”

Match of the Day 2 host Mark Chapman sits on the board of Manchester Originals, who will face Oval Invincibles in the competition’s historic standalone women’s opener at the Kia Oval.

The self-described “traditionalist” pleaded for patience as the ink on cricket’s new dictionary dries.

He said: “There’s lots of things people are finding their way through.

“I’ve been broadcasting for 25 years. I’ve always used the word ‘batsman’.

“Now I recognise the importance of saying batter when we’re talking about The Hundred.”

He added: “Cricket has always revolutionised. There’s always been evolution within the game going back to the ‘70s.

“[The Hundred] just feels like the latest.”

You can see and be part of history: show your support and attend the first game of The Hundred on 21 July at The Kia Oval #BeThere. thehundred.com

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