'Batter' to replace 'batsman' in MCC's new Laws of Cricket

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Katherine Brunt
Katherine Brunt

The Marylebone Cricket Club has long been regarded as one of sport's last great bastions of traditionalism - but not for much longer.

Just weeks before Clare Connor takes over as MCC's first female president in its 234-year history, the club announced another historic move as it formally replaced the word ‘batsman’ with the gender-neutral term ‘batter’ in the Laws of Cricket.

The MCC justified the change as a means of making cricket more inclusive, building on the advances that have been made in the women’s game in recent years. There are now no other gender-specific terms in the Laws of Cricket, with terms such as 'third man', 'nightwatchman' and '12th man' not forming part of the Laws of the Game, and therefore falling outside the Club's remit.

“MCC believes in cricket being a game for all and this move recognises the changing landscape of the game in modern times,” said Jamie Cox, the Assistant Secretary (Cricket and Operations) at the MCC.

“Use of the term “batter” is a natural evolution in our shared cricketing language and the terminology has already been adopted by many of those involved in the sport. It is the right time for this adjustment to be recognised formally and we are delighted, as the Guardians of the Laws, to announce these changes.”

The decision was taken by the MCC Laws sub-committee, who periodically review the Laws of the Game. During the last review into the matter, in 2017, the sub-committee elected to keep the terms batsman and batsmen. “We expect and encourage others to adopt the updated terminology following today’s announcement of the change to the Laws,” an MCC statement said.

There are 10 members of the MCC Laws sub-committee, only one of whom, Deborah Burns, is a woman. The sub-committee includes figures such as the umpires Simon Taufel and Sundaram Ravi and is chaired by Alan Fordham, a former England first-class cricketer. These changes have been approved by the MCC Committee, which Connor sits on.

The use of the term ‘batter’ has already grown noticeably in recent years. The International Cricket Council - the sport's global governing body - has encouraged commentators to use the gender-neutral term. Greater promotion of the women’s game was also a key reason for the launch of the new Hundred cricket competition in England this year, where the term 'batter' was also encouraged by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

The decision is likely to spark accusations of MCC adopting an increasingly 'woke' agenda by its critics, although it is in keeping with a general move to promote more gender equality.

In 1998, women were finally allowed to become members of the MCC, and therefore to sit in the famous Pavilion at Lord’s. Last year, MCC announced that Connor would succeed Kumar Sangakkara as president in October, while last month the Club confirmed that England women's cricket great Rachael Heyhoe Flint will have a set of gates named after her at Lord's, the first time that a women’s cricketer has been honoured at the ground in this way.

Crowds and interest in the women’s game have also increased noticeably in recent years. Last year, 86,000 watched Australia defeat India in the T20 World Cup final. In England, a sell-out crowd of 24,000 saw England’s victory over India in the World Cup final in 2017. Women’s crowds for the Hundred were comfortably a record for the domestic game in England, with over 17,000 watching Oval Invincibles beat Southern Brave in the final.

Reaction from within the sport has been positive, with former England captain Michael Vaughan welcoming the decision, telling Telegraph Sport: "I have no problems with it at all if it’s for the game to be better and more inclusive."

Former Australia player and coach Darren Lehmann also expressed approval, tweeting: "Well done MCC - like it."

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