photo credit: gumdropgas
Today's guest post is from Anthony Jenkins
Cricket bats are available with a wide range of features, and choosing one is a very personal decision. There are no right or wrong bats, just the one that feels right for you. Of these features, size and 'pick-up' or 'feel' are particularly important.
The top of the bat handle should reach the top of a player's thigh, allowing him to take guard with his weight evenly balanced on both feet, and with his eyes level facing the bowler.
The weight of cricket bats varies from around 1lb 11oz for the smallest junior bat to 3lb 4oz for the heaviest full size bat, though anything over 3lb takes considerable strength to wield.
However, the ease of 'pick-up' of a bat while batting is more important than its absolute weight, and depends on both the bat size and how the weight is distributed around the blade. Different batsmen prefer different 'pick-up', so its important to get the feel of several bats before making a choice.
Pick-up affects bat control, which must be exercised only by the batsman's 'top hand' on the bat handle â€“ this is the left hand for a right handed batsman. If he can't play strokes with his top hand alone then the bat is too heavy; his technique will suffer and frustration will follow. It is particularly important for junior batsmen to avoid this, so that they learn the right technique and enjoy batting.
Other features affecting a bat's performance and balance are slight curvature of the bat face to bring the point of impact with the ball below the batsman's eyes, and bat handle technology and varying handle thickness that gives each model a different feel and flexibility.
Cricket bats are made of willow, a soft fine grained wood. Look for 7 or 8 straight grains in the willow across a bat's face for the optimum sensitivity and durability. Fewer grains are more durable but less sensitive, more grains are more sensitive and less durable.
Before use, untreated new bats need oiling lightly with raw linseed oil, then, 'knocking in' with an old ball or a bat mallet, to compress the fibers of the willow on the face and edges in preparation for hitting a hard cricket ball. Knocking in a new bat can take several hours.
However, many new bats are now pre-knocked in and oiled, with a clear anti-scuff cover applied to face and edges to improve durability. These bats only need around 45 minutes to one hour of knocking in, and a light covering of oil on uncovered parts of the blade. Another addition might be a rubberized toe guard, to prevent damp seeping into the willow. These extras are good news for all players, especially young ones who will be keen to use their new bat as soon as possible.
Most cricket bat manufacturers use a star rating system to indicate the quality of a bat â€“ the more stars, the better the quality of the willow and/or the level of technology of the bat. However, top of the range bats are unnecessary for most players, so consider all the factors in this article before you part with your money!
Anthony Jenkins is a cricket player and coach, and has been involved with the game for over 4 decades. He manages a junior cricket team, and plays in the Shropshire cricket league. He also manages www.cricket-for-parents.com where you can read more of his work.© Copyright miSport Holdings Ltd 2008