I learned recently that a person who I had come to admire, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, has died. According to Wikipedia: “Rachael Heyhoe Flint, Baroness Heyhoe Flint, OBE DL (née Heyhoe; 11 June 1939 – 18 January 2017) was an English cricketer, businesswoman and philanthropist. She was best known for being captain of England from 1966 to 1978, and was unbeaten in six Test series: in total, she played for the English women’s cricket team from 1960 to 1982. Heyhoe Flint was captain when her team won the inaugural 1973 Women’s Cricket World Cup, which England hosted. She was also the first female cricketer to hit a six in a Test match, and one of the first ten women to became a member of the MCC. She also played as goalkeeper for the England national field hockey team in 1964. According to Scyld Berry: “She was, among other achievements, the Dr WG Grace of women’s cricket – the pioneer without whom the game would not be what it is.”
It was with much sadness I learned about Rachael’s death. Having just listened to a TMS podcast, titled: “A tribute to Rachael Heyhoe-Flint…..a ‘Pioneer’” I was reminded of some of the reasons why I admired this remarkable woman. As with many a celebrity who has made an impact on her chosen career, and much wider than that, there will be many among the good and the great to pay their tributes, the main thing left for me is to add my own. I have to admit, even though I am a cricket fan, I am not a follower much of women’s cricket, yet recognize her contribution to women’s cricket and women’s sport, and dare I say it, women having an equal role in a hitherto male dominated world, is monumental. She is someone I have been aware of for many a year, even though as age has caught up (as it does with us all) she has been far less in the public limelight in recent years, and is someone who has always led from the front and do so both in a forthright and robust, yet winsome and self-deprecating manner. As for her achievements, Wikipedia and tributes from the Internet, like this TMS broadcast, says so much – her record speaks for herself in what she has achieved.
While there are many women athletes I can name, Rachael is probably the first. She is probably the first that I can honestly say I took serious in a sphere that is male dominated. She was true pioneer with her can do attitude, not just in cricket but in several other areas also. All that remains is to say thank you Racheal for making the difference you have and may you rest in peace.