Flapping my ears near other people's conversations, as I am wont to do, I have noticed that the people we used to call batsmen have (it would seem) turned into batters. Does anyone know why this should be?
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Presumably you're referring to cricket, where 'batsman' is still by far the standard; 'batter' is only slightly increasing in usage recently. My guess about the reasons for the rise of 'batter':
'Batter' actually has a history of use in cricket. A 1934 book, The language of cricket, says of 'batter' that it was "Formerly used concurrently with 'batsman', as an alternative term." Similarly, M. A. Pervez's A Dictionary of Cricket (2001) defines 'batter' as:
The point is that as late as 2001, 'batter' was considered mainly an archaic term.
I found a discussion of 'batter' in this 2005 book:
Seems a mess; we'll see how this plays out in a few years.
I have seen "batter" around, but 'batsman' is still more common. Looking at Cricinfo, the commentary to yesterday's England v Ireland game (perhaps you don't want to be reminded? :p) uses only 'batsman', not 'batter'. Elsewhere there is 'batter' used in quotes, and it seems to use both 'batswoman' and 'batter' for women's cricket (but it seems to me they more often find ways to avoid using either term!). (Only nine results for 'batswoman' in the last ten years.) So it's inconsistent, and again, probably the dust will settle in a few years and we'll arrive at consensus on terminology.
As reported also by ShreevatsaR in a comment, batter is preferred because it does not sound like referring to a male player.
The word is common enough in British English that the OED doesn't report the word is American or chiefly American.
Although both 'batsmen' and 'batters' have definitions in dictionaries that suggest they can be used interchangeably, it is more common to use the term 'batsmen' in cricket and 'batters' in baseball. For women's cricket, the term 'batswoman' is more commonly used than 'batter'.
Other discussions may arise about "Bowlsmen" (which has to my knowledge never been used, and Fielders and Fieldsmen (of which I have heard both)
Along with the fact that cricket is a sport increasingly enjoyed by both sexes (as has been said), Batters/Bowlers/Fielders and (there never has been "Wicketkeepsmen either) Wicketkeepers seem to standardise all elements of the game in a gender non-specific way.