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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Batsman. Batter. How sport is creating new social agendas

Just like people, sport needs to retain that which is of value and let go of the things that do not matter or are outdated.

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

It’s just not cricket.

It’s something better.

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With the change in cricket terminology from the term “batsman” to “batter”, more serious questions arise about whether bigger changes are needed.

The use of the term “batter”, being gender neutral, is of course far more inclusive. In a world where sports adapt and change over time it is appropriate that the nomenclature related to the sports also adapt to reflect the best of society.

Digressing into humour for a moment, let’s consider some of the other changes that could happen with respect to cricket. For a start, an over in which no batter scores any runs should no longer be called a “maiden”. Maiden means unmarried. The term maiden therefore means the ball was untouched or the over was pure or “virginal”. Surely this term must be removed from the cricketing lexicon? For the purists, please note once a person is not a virgin, future ‘purity’ does not undo previous scoring.

In addition to this change, there are field positions such as third “man” which could now presumably be called third place or third spot or simply “bronze”.

And of course, in the interests of inclusivity we should not score runs. Runs imply that the batters have legs. A more inclusive word to use would be points.

On a serious note however, when assessing the way language changes and society adapts over time, sport is indicative of the broader culture and changes to social values.

 It is interesting to see how over the past 15 years or so my friends and I have diverged over the changes happening in cricket. Some refuse to watch the Twenty20 leagues decrying the loss of tradition. They say that rampant commercialism is destroying the purity of what they know.

By contrast, I watch these shorter leagues and enjoy the amazing athleticism, the greater diversity seen in all teams, the opportunities given to young players from nations where they otherwise would have had no opportunity. I also see young families, a new generation of children touching a sport that otherwise would have been lost to them.

Interestingly, I also see that the old concept of stillness while batting has given way to batters who can move and still strike a ball cleanly. Those who advocate for timeless stillness never see that movement can also generate success.

Five-day test matches have an epic and dramatic appeal, but not to the TikTok generation who need a result immediately, if not sooner. To remain relevant, sports must match the times.

As people grow older, they need to determine what things they hold on to and what things they let go of. This is also true of sport. That is, sports need to retain that which is of value and let go of the things that do not matter or are outdated. In this regard consider the following.

Where my friends see corporate dollars destroying the fabric of tradition, I see money going into a sport that supports the inclusion of women, that excites young people and that generates a form of social cohesion that we need in a time of discontinuity. I see money building communities and skills development in places where opportunities did not exist.

I further see that there is a greater discussion around what culture means and a celebration of diversity. In addition, there is the opportunity for greater global interconnectedness. It is through cricket and its adaptations that young men and women from Afghanistan have been exposed to the world stage.

That words change and the things we knew and loved change, does not mean that all is lost. Something perfect at one time, can be completely misplaced in another context and time.

It seems to me that holding on too tightly to what has been constricts the best of what can be. The real test is whether we can harness the best of change.

READ ALSO: Ind v Aus women’s cricket: same team, new mindset


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Mohan Dhall
Academic leader, M2K Education and Advisory and CEO of Australian Tutoring Association and Global Tutoring Association.

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