BBC commentator Jonathan Agnew on why he ‘hates’ the term ‘batter’

To say cricket’s old guard has a few gripes with the modern game would be an understatement.

The evolution of T20 cricket, which has injected new life into the sport over the past 20 years, has remained a sticking point for purists who believe old traditions are being hurt.

Fundamental changes in how the game is played, and what skills are prioritised, breed healthy debate over where the sport is headed and what can be done to make sure it thrives for decades to come.

But now, as women’s cricket makes a breakthrough, there are some who believe the changing terminology used in commentary is a major issue that needs to be addressed.

Jonathan Agnew, the BBC’s chief cricket correspondent, has ripped the bandaid off with a candid assessment on some of the modern changes, particularly the use of “batter” instead of “batsman” and references to the Ashes as the “men’s Ashes”.

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In a Sunday Times interview, Agnew criticised the gender-neutral term “batter” introduced by the Marylebone Cricket Club in 2021, which for some has made the sport sound more unsophisticated and American.

“I hate ‘batter’,” he said. “I always call a woman batsman a ‘batter’. But why can’t a man playing a man’s game be a batsman?

“I just think it’s sad. Inclusivity’s great, but come on!”

He also questioned the renaming of the Ashes to differentiate between men’s and women’s competitions, comparing it to historical events that have not changed their names based on gender participation.

“That doesn’t mean to say that the Ashes has to be the ‘men’s Ashes’,” said Agnew, before asking if that was old-fashioned and if he would look like a dinosaur.

“People will call me an old fart, I suppose … It’s an event. It happened. It’s not the ‘Men’s Battle of Hastings’, is it?”

Agnew, who will soon retire from his role as BBC’s cricket correspondent, admitted he just doesn’t care for T20 cricket as much as the red ball game, and wouldn’t be fussed if he never had to announce a player’s transfer between franchises again.

“I can’t get excited by somebody’s move from the Delhi Daredevils to the wot-sit,” he said. “If people are brought up thinking that that is what cricket is, that’s a real shame. The game has clearly changed a lot.

“This does seem the right time for me to step back from my role as BBC cricket correspondent. This summer, my 34th in the post, will be my last. In a quickly changing cricket landscape it is time for fresh legs to cover the daily duties, leaving me to focus entirely on TMS.”

England bowler Kate Cross provided a counterpoint, arguing that the term “batsman” might discourage female participation in cricket.

“It is just a word, of course. But it is a word which could potentially put a young girl off the sport because she feels like the door isn’t open for her,” she told The Cricketer.

Agnew announced he would step down from his role at the end of the English summer after 33 years, though he has signed a contract to remain on the BBC’s Test Match Special team until at least 2028.

“I am really delighted that I shall continue to present Test Match Special for the next four years. It is a unique program of which I am immensely proud, and means so much to so many people,” he said.