How Is Batter Better Than Batsman Or Batswoman?


The International Cricket Council (ICC) has given its approval for officially using the word ‘batter’ to describe a ‘batsman’ or ‘batswoman’ in all forms of cricket and commentaries or writings with effect from the ICC Men’s Cricket T20 World Cup-2021. The ICC has said that the word ‘batter’ has in fact been used since the last about four years, mostly in commentaries and also by some cricketers themselves, and this shift of usage is noted by the supreme cricket body. The Council further said that the word is ‘gender neutral’ and it makes cricket a more inclusive game. A large majority of the people concerned with the most popular game of the world have welcomed this change with some describing it as a ‘common-sense change’. They further argue that nobody describes a ‘bowler’ as ‘bowlsman’ or ‘bowlswoman’ or a ‘fielder’ as ‘fieldsman’ or ‘fieldswoman’. However, the word ‘fieldsman’ has been in usage since the old times and even sometimes now. This writer is not aware if ‘fieldswoman’ has also been used in women’s cricket which is not a recent phenomenon, but is being played, although in a limited way, since the 18th century in England and later in Australia.

 

In normal English usage the word ‘batter’ means ‘hitting hard someone or something again and again’, and the word is also used in cooking and beating a person, mostly in unfortunate cases of ‘wife battering’. In England, where the English language originated and became a world language, the usage of ‘a batter person’ is someone being ‘regularly hit and badly hurt by a member of the family or his or her partner’ who could be a child or a woman. Of course, the batter can now be included to describe someone who keeps on hitting the cricket ball; but the word can never rid itself of its ‘negative’ implications, particularly in the context of us growing up with and playing cricket which has always been and even now described to us as ‘gentlemen’s game’. Can a ‘batter’ be a gentleman or a gentlewoman?

 

Another argument of the ICC and its supporters is that of making the game of cricket more ‘inclusive’. Who says cricket is not inclusive? Since ages people have been listening to radio commentaries or watching live telecasts with full families including, more prominently, women members; in the stadiums the cameras love picking up cheering women fans; and in the childhood days most of us always allowed the girls to participate in the game. Further, the ICC itself distinguishes its competitions or World Cups as ‘men’s’ or as ‘women’s’, and pray how are they going to make it as inclusive as making teams with both men and women players like co-education schools and colleges or like tennis mixed singles or doubles. We have also mentioned above that women’s cricket also began more than two hundred years ago.

 

Then, the argument of making cricket ‘gender neutral’: our point of ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s’ cricket teams is still valid here. How is it ‘gender bias’ if we call the men cricketers as ‘batsmen’ in men’s cricket and women cricketers as ‘batswomen’ in women’s cricket? Of course, some commentators may find it ‘tongue battering’ to keep on pronouncing the adjective ‘batswoman’ again and again in matches played by women. The basic gender difference in the game comes naturally with men endowed with more physical strength and stamina, and women burdened with their own kind of issues which make men’s cricket much more popular than women’s, and here, the ICC or any other men or women cannot do anything about it. The most physically taxing games are of football, cricket and hockey and therefore in these games men’s teams are more popular for fans unlike in games like tennis, table tennis, badminton and athletics or gymnastics. With feminist commitments in his writings always, this writer does not find the term ‘batswoman’ derogatory for women in any context.

 

I’d get always infuriated when someone describes Bradman or Garfield Sobers or Tony Greig or Allan Border or Sunil Gavaskar or Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara as ‘one of the greatest batters in history of cricket’; even now I get infuriated when some commentators or players themselves describe Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Joe Root, Sanath Jayasurya, David Warner, Steve Smith and many others as ‘batters’. Well, in this liberal age we can have our choices in usage of words too. Cricket fans will go on using either ‘batsman’ or ‘batter’ eternally, in spite of the ‘approval’. And personally speaking, I’ll always go on using ‘batsman’ for men’s cricket and ‘batswomen’ for women’s cricket in my writings on the this magnificent game of cricket.

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