MCC members accuse first female president of 'gesture politics' for Lord's memorial plans


MCC members have accused the club’s first ever female president of ‘gesture politics’ for her plans to create a memorial to Rachael Heyhoe Flint.

Heyhoe Flint captained England and was one of the first women to become a member of the Lord’s club after campaigning for years to change its men-only policy.

Clare Connor, who is set to become the club’s first woman president when she succeeds Sri Lankan icon Kumar Sangakkara in October, wants to celebrate Heyhoe Flint’s achievements with a statue or a gate at the Home of Cricket.

Clare Connor, Marylebone Cricket Club's first ever female president, wants to commemorate Rachael Heyhoe Flint at Lord's

Clare Connor, Marylebone Cricket Club’s first ever female president, wants to commemorate Rachael Heyhoe Flint at Lord’s 

Heyhoe Flint, pictured batting against New Zealand at the Oval in 1966, was one of the first women to become a member of the Lord's club

Heyhoe Flint, pictured batting against New Zealand at the Oval in 1966, was one of the first women to become a member of the Lord’s club

But the proposals have been criticised by some of the club’s traditional members who say Heyhoe Flint does not merit such a prestigious memorial.

A portrait of the pioneer is already hanging at the MCC pavilion but Connor, herself a former England player, wants more representation to acknowledge her impact on the game.

On the pitch, in a near 20-year international career, Heyhoe Flint represented her country 45 times in Tests and one-day internationals and won the 1973 World Cup as captain – having played a central role in establishing the tournament, two years before the men’s equivalent. 

She told members at an online forum meeting on Tuesday, according to The Times: ‘She was so important to where the women’s game is now. I think a statue or gate on the ground would be appropriate and fitting.’

WG Grace, widely considered one of the game's greatest players, is commemorated at Lord's with the Grace Gates which were erected in 1923, and a statue at the ground

WG Grace, widely considered one of the game’s greatest players, is commemorated at Lord’s with the Grace Gates which were erected in 1923, and a statue at the ground

The proposals have been criticised by some of the club's traditional members who say Heyhoe Flint does not merit such a prestigious memorial (file image)

The proposals have been criticised by some of the club’s traditional members who say Heyhoe Flint does not merit such a prestigious memorial (file image)

Connor added there were 73 statues of cricketers in Australia before the first female one was erected, and there are no others of women cricketers around the world.

The incoming president said she discussed the proposal with senior figures but some were clearly taken aback with the plans.   

Mark Peel, a cricket author and member, branded it ‘gesture politics’, saying: ‘I think it would be misguided to erect a statue. It would put everything out of proportion. To compare like with like — men’s and women’s cricket — is plain wrong.’ 

Robert Griffiths QC, who chaired MCC’s laws and its development committees, said: ‘Diversity is one thing but a statue or gate has to be named on merit. As a player you wouldn’t put her in the same league as Don Bradman and Garry Sobers, even within the women’s game.’

Heyhoe Flint (pictured receving an OBE in 2008) hit almost 1,600 runs at 45.54 in her 22 Tests, and averaged more than 58 in her 23 one-day internationals

Heyhoe Flint (pictured receving an OBE in 2008) hit almost 1,600 runs at 45.54 in her 22 Tests, and averaged more than 58 in her 23 one-day internationals

WG Grace, widely considered one of the game’s greatest players, is commemorated at Lord’s with the Grace Gates which were erected in 1923, and a statue at the ground.

Some members, such as Mr Griffifths, said there is no comparison between the legacy in the sport left by Grace and Heyhoe Flint.

But younger cricket fans who have not yet surpassed the required 27-year waiting list to become an MCC member, are keen to see more representation in the sport.

Emily Windsor, 23, who plays for Hampshire, said a memorial for Heyhoe Flint would be a ‘huge step forward’ for the women’s game.   

The cricketer (pictured scoring a four against Australia in 1963) was inducted into the International Cricket Council's Hall of Fame in 2010, having become an honorary life member at the MCC in 1999

The cricketer (pictured scoring a four against Australia in 1963) was inducted into the International Cricket Council’s Hall of Fame in 2010, having become an honorary life member at the MCC in 1999

The club said: ‘MCC recognises the contribution that many women cricketers have made to the game and intends to mark these roles in perpetuity.’     

Heyhoe Flint hit almost 1,600 runs at 45.54 in her 22 Tests, and averaged more than 58 in her 23 one-day internationals.

She was inducted into the International Cricket Council’s Hall of Fame in 2010, having become an honorary life member at the MCC in 1999 and gone on to serve two terms on the club committee. 

Following her death in 2017 aged 77, Connor said: ‘We talk of trailblazers, women in sport who have really broken boundaries – Rachael is up there with the very, very best of them.

‘She was my friend and mentor and inspiration – and I am not alone. Rachael was one of our sport’s true pioneers, and it is no exaggeration to say that she paved the way for the progress enjoyed by recent generations of female cricketers. We are all in her debt on this very sad day.’  

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