Back in July 2014, when members of M.S. Dhoni’s team were introducing themselves at a garden party hosted by then Indian high commissioner Ranjan Mathai, Virat Kohli announced himself with characteristic chutzpah: “My name is Virat Kohli and I am the batsman of India.”
Let’s forget about the “the” for a moment but today to fit in with the new laws of the Marylebone Cricket Club, the guardians of the game, he would be saying: “I am the batter of India.”
The MCC has changed its rules so that “batsman” is replaced with the “gender-neutral” term “batter”.
The change has been talked about for some time to take account of women cricketers, but now it’s official.
No doubt, the MCC will be accused of going “woke” by Right-wing newspapers and commentators, but on Wednesday morning came the formal declaration from Lord’s: “The Laws of Cricket have been amended throughout to include the term ‘batter’ in place of ‘batsman’ and ‘batters’ instead of ‘batsmen’ wherever these terms appear.”
The MCC said the change was “effective immediately” and “updates have been made to the Laws of Cricket published at www.lords.org/laws, with the Laws of Cricket App and printed editions to be amended accordingly at their next updates”.
“MCC believes that the use of gender-neutral terminology helps reinforce cricket’s status as an inclusive game for all,” the announcement said.
“A number of governing bodies and media organisations are already using the term ‘batter’ in their playing conditions and reporting. We expect and encourage others to adopt the updated terminology following today’s announcement of the change to the Laws.”
The MCC added: “At the time of the last redraft in 2017 it was agreed, following consultation with the International Cricket Council (ICC) and key figures within women’s cricket, that the terminology would remain as ‘batsman’ and ‘batsmen’ within the Laws of the game.
“The changes announced today reflect the wider usage of the terms ‘batter’ and ‘batters’ which has occurred in cricketing circles in the intervening period. The move to ‘batter’ is a natural progression, aligning with the terms of bowlers and fielders that already sit within the Laws.”
Some old school buffers will think back to the days when women were not allowed into the Long Room at Lord’s. But the MCC underlined: “Women’s cricket has enjoyed unprecedented growth at all levels around the world in the same period. England’s victory over India in the 2017 World Cup final took place in front of a capacity crowd at Lord’s.
“A record international crowd saw Australia defeat India in the T20 World Cup final in Melbourne three years later and earlier this year, Lord’s broke the record for a domestic women’s match as 17,116 watched Oval Invincibles defeat Southern Brave.”
Jamie Cox, assistant secretary (cricket and operations) at MCC, said: “MCC believes in cricket being a game for all and this move recognises the changing landscape of the game in modern times.”
So now we know. Bradman was the world’s best batter. Some Indians would say he was equalled only by Sachin, the best batter from Bombay.