It’s official – ‘batter’ is here to stay, with the ICC confirming it will replace 'batsman' in all playing conditions going forward, commencing with the Men's T20 World Cup 2021.
Over the past four years, the ICC has been moving away from the word 'batsman', with 'batter' implemented regularly in commentary and across the organisation's channels.
In September, the Marylebone Cricket Club announced it would be replacing the word 'batsman' with 'batter' in the Laws of Cricket.
That change will now be reflected across all ICC playing conditions going forward.
ICC acting CEO Geoff Allardice said the MCC's decision to move to 'batter' in the Laws of the game was one they 'welcomed'.
"The ICC has been utilising the term batter for some time now across our channels and in commentary and we welcome the MCC’s decision to implement it into the Laws of cricket and will follow suit with our playing conditions that are derived from the Laws," Allardice said. "This is a natural and perhaps overdue evolution of our sport and now our batters are gender-neutral in the same way as bowlers, fielders and wicket keepers!
"It’s a small change, but one that I hope will have significant impact on cricket being viewed as a more inclusive sport. Of course language changes alone will not grow the sport, we must ensure that girls and boys who are inspired to play cricket have a fantastic, fun first experience and are both able to progress as cricketers without barriers."
For ICC Hall of Famer and former Australia star Lisa Sthalekar the move to 'batter' is a simple but important one in growing a sport that truly is for everyone.
Unaware cricket was a sport played by women as a child, Sthalekar went on to become one of the finest players Australia has ever produced before making the step into commentary.
Having grown up using the term ‘batter’ as a player, she stuck to the word when she stepped behind the microphone and remembers being told by a co-commentator in one of her earliest gigs that “batter was for fish.”
“We don’t say ‘hey look at that fieldsman’, we say ‘look at the fielder’. We don’t say ‘bowlsman’, we say ‘bowler’," she said to icc-cricket.com following the MCC decision.
“So if there is a similar term to describe someone with a piece of wood in their hands, why wouldn’t we follow suit?”
It’s worth noting that up until this century, the phrase ‘fieldsman’ was the accepted term with the MCC stepping in in 2000. Nowadays, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone saying 'fieldsman'.
Sthalekar is well aware even with the ICC and MCC both moving permanently to ‘batter' that ‘batsman’ will still be heard on occasion in the media.
“It’s like a habit, it takes forever to get rid of it.”
But the more ‘batter’ is used, the more it will become the norm and with that cricket will better engage with the next generation.
“It’s about young girls out there feeling that we’re talking to them or talking about something they can do," she said. "‘Batsman’ may mean they switch off, they go ‘well they’re not talking about us’.
“Language is a subtle change that has a deep impact. If we can start to change the language in cricket then we are going to be better for it.”
Her thoughts were echoed by Allardice.
"We believe cricket is a sport for all and we must ensure that is reflected in everything we say and do and be as inclusive as possible which is why the introduction of the gender-neutral batter into the Laws is so important," he said. "Language plays a crucial role in creating an equitable and inclusive sport, I don’t want any girl in the world to not feel like cricket isn’t for her because we’re using language that isn’t relatable to her. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of words."
And that is at the heart of the need to change. Cricket is better for using a word that is inclusive of the entire population of the world instead of just half of it.
"The criticism that we get (about ‘batter) tends to come from males," Sthalekar said. "I’m sorry but it’s actually not about you guys. You guys are already fans of the game, you’re already included, you already feel like you’re a part of the cricket community.
“We’re actually trying to open and broaden the cricket community because we want everyone to love the game. Isn’t that what we all want?
“If we can find a gender-neutral term and it still describes exactly what we are trying to articulate then why wouldn’t we use it?”
Allardice described the move as a "common-sense change," pointing out it had been well received by most in the sport.
"Why not take a small step to ensuring we’re a sport that doesn’t exclude 50% of the world’s population with outdated language choices. Whilst some may have made lots of noise against this common-sense change, the majority of people within the game have welcomed the move."