The Cricket Paper - - OPINION -

IT­was Harry S Tru­man who coined the term ‘soft diplo­macy’ – but it might just as well have been Rachael Hey­hoe Flint, so dis­tin­guished was her cru­sade to get women’s cricket recog­nised in the face of over­whelm­ing male prej­u­dice. It is too late now, but the MCC should have made her its first fe­male Pres­i­dent, so im­por­tant a fig­ure was she in the game.

Rachel knew that men, es­pe­cially those in the bas­tions like Lord’s, would never al­low women an equal share in their pre­cious game if she and oth­ers protested too loudly. In­stead, she lob­bied qui­etly with great charm, ruth­less only in the tar­gets she se­lected in or­der to get women’s cricket its dues.

Many are con­sid­ered pioneers but Baroness Flint, as she was even­tu­ally en­no­bled, was at the fore­front of so many things. Cap­tain of Eng­land’s women for 12 years, she sin­gle-hand­edly or­gan­ised the first women’s World Cup in 1973, two years be­fore the men’s equiv­a­lent took off. Later, after she had re­tired, she be­came the first hon­orary women’s mem­ber of the MCC be­fore serv­ing on both its cricket and main com­mit­tees.

Cricket wasn’t her only call­ing in sport, and she was a fine hockey player and a life­long sup­porter of Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers, for whom she served as vice-pres­i­dent.

I didn’t know her that well, but I did have cause to spend about a week with her in 1984 in La Manga, Spain.The oc­ca­sion was a com­pe­ti­tion be­tween six crick­eters and six celebri­ties from show­biz and other sports, all for Ian Botham’s Ben­e­fit Year. One of the crick­eters in­vited along with Botham, me, Phil Ed­monds, Chris Cow­drey and Ed­die Hem­mings was Janette Brit­tin, the lead­ing Eng­land women’s player at the time.With co­me­dian Peter Cook one of the celebri­ties it was ex­cess all ar­eas and Rachael had come along to chap­er­one Jan.

Han­dling Cook was not for the faint-hearted, es­pe­cially after strong drink, but Rachael had it sussed; she sim­ply spot­ted the naughty pub­lic school­boy within and adopted an ap­pro­pri­ate head­mistress-like tone to com­bat it. It worked a treat and while ev­ery­body else felt the lash of his tongue, Rachael and Jan went un­scathed.

I didn’t know it then but have come to know it now, that there are cer­tain peo­ple in the world who just ooze wis­dom what­ever the cir­cum­stance. Rachael Hey­hoe Flint was one of those and it is cricket’s great loss, as well as the myr­iad other peo­ple and causes she touched dur­ing her life­time, that she is no longer here to dis­pense it.

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