Clare Connor, managing director of women’s cricket at the England and Wales Cricket Board, says she is not surprised by the adverse reaction to the gender-neutral term ‘batter’ replacing ‘batsman’ in cricket’s laws.
The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) announced the change with immediate effect last week, saying it recognised the “changing landscape of the game”.
“The backlash is coming from people who don’t understand or empathise. It isn’t at all surprising,” said Connor, who will become MCC president on Friday.
Connor, who was speaking on BBC World Service’s Stumped podcast, added: “The reason I’m not surprised is that the keepers of that language have, in the main, been men who have been privileged in terms of their access to the game and their opportunities in the game.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion but until you walk in the shoes of someone who, for whatever reason, hasn’t felt welcomed, or included or part of something then it is very hard for people to understand and emphasise with what that might feel like.
“Language is very powerful, and particularly in sport it shouldn’t exclude anyone.
“Where the game is now an eight-year-old girl doesn’t want to be a batsman, or a policeman, or a postman, or a fireman – why would she want to be anything that has the word man in?
“It is a really good step because it signals an intent. They knew there would be backlash, but they knew it was the right thing to do as another step forward for the game.”
‘Absolutely the right decision to cancel Pakistan tour’
In one of her last acts as managing director of women’s cricket at the ECB, Connor was involved in the decision to cancel the England men’s and women’s tours to Pakistan in October.
The decision came after New Zealand men withdrew from Pakistan mid-tour due to a “specific and credible threat” but the ECB’s statement did not reference security, instead citing mental fatigue of its players.
The statement also did not make any reference to the women’s team, and captain Heather Knight said the decision was taken “out of our hands” and made “above our heads”.
Connor, however, says the players were involved in the decision.
“There were lots of conversations and lots of conversations with the players, whether they formal minuted consultation meetings or whether there were informal conversations about the evolving situation last weekend,” said Connor.
“The board with the information in front of them had to make a decision – there was an urgency to the decision, particularly with the men’s side with the T20 World Cup and the logistical side of things.
“The board took a strong decision, which I think, absolutely at the time, was the right decision.
“It is unbelievably disappointing for the progress that the game, and the return of the game to Pakistan, was making.”