Heather Knight: England captain on Rachael Heyhoe Flint, gender parity & changing perceptions

Heather Knight

I was absolutely sports mad as a kid but, even when I was young, there were always cues that I was slightly different and outside the norm just because of my gender.

I played in boys' football teams and cricket teams and generally I was made to feel very welcome, but I always felt slightly like an outsider.

It was little things; not being able to see women's sport, not having women equally represented in the media. It wasn't seen as normal to be a woman in sport and I had that around me as I grew up. All of my teammates did and it would have been the same for women in other sports.

Things have changed massively since then, but they can keep getting better.

I am really pleased to see the MCC is planning to commemorate Rachael Heyhoe Flint, but it was disappointing to hear that a few of their members did not want a statue to be built at Lord's.

Their arguments showed some people still need to understand that sport is for all.

Rachael is women's cricket. She wrote match reports for newspapers while she was England captain. She organised funding for the team and got them into the Long Room. She invented the World Cup and when it was held, two years before the men's, she led England to victory.

She has done more than anyone to put women's cricket on the map and build it from the ground up to where it is today.

To see a commemoration for her at Lord's will be so special. It is a huge statement from Lord's and the MCC to have that there; it shows women's cricketers are welcome there.

I have had really good experiences at Lord's. It is the home of cricket, it is the place where I won a World Cup. To have a memento to Rachael there, representing what she has done, will be so important in showing women's cricket is a part of the game as a whole.

When we walked out for the World Cup final, we walked past Rachael's portrait in the long room. During the national anthem, her face came up on the screen. It made me realise the history of the day and all the people who had contributed to us, as a team, being able to be at Lord's in front of all those fans.

Heyhoe Flint playing cricket
Rachael Heyhoe Flint died in 2017, aged 77

I did not know until recently that there are only four statues celebrating sportswomen in the UK, and it makes me sad. Things like that demonstrate how important it is we bring gender balance into the heart of all of our sporting discussions.

A little change, such as using 'batter' rather than 'batsman', is so small but so important. You get cues from language that make you think you are not welcome. If you remove those, they are not there for a young girl to think 'oh, maybe cricket is not for me'.

It really makes me laugh when people get annoyed about using 'batter'. It is just a word. It has no bearing or effect on those who are annoyed, but it could have quite a big impact on seeing someone get involved in the sport.

It is a simple thing that is a big win.

The first Hundred game will be a women's game, which is a big statement from the ECB. They have put women's and men's players on the same platform, and that is what cricket should be about; a sport for all.

We are all a product of our environment. If you see those things - and they are very basic things - like men and women on the same platform, you grow up seeing that as the norm. And that's what we are moving towards with competitions like The Hundred and celebrations of women like Rachael.

I would ask people who are opposed to changes, or don't see the need for equality in things like statues, to take a moment and think about how a young girl would feel, to be underrepresented and rejected from a sport they love.

If you realise what Rachael did for our sport, and women's sport, I don't know how you can object to her having a statue.

Hats off to the MCC for planning to celebrate Rachael's impact on cricket - I hope it is the first of many around our country that commemorate those trailblazers who went before us and laid a foundation for the continued growth of women's sport.

Heather Knight was speaking to BBC Sport's Amy Lofthouse