Cricket bats are exciting sports equipment to purchase. After all, it is a piece of art, carved from a unique wood that increases its strength over time. Every bat comes with a specific type of make, and every different model has its specific applications. The two best types of bats are the English willow bats and the Kashmir willow.
Cricket bats are like wine or scotch. They get better with time and preparation while delivering satisfaction. Maintenance of the bat is usually done to tighten the grain structures of the bat’s surface. These grains happen to be packed loosely during manufacturing, hence, knocking the bat tightens the willow.
Many companies give out bats that perform well even without knocking and oiling. This is true. There are many companies that have made bats that do not require preparation or so as they say. These bats perform well for a very little time and end up snapping or getting fractures towards the end. Here are 6 Tips on how to select a cricket bat.
Bat maintenance can be overwhelming when one is not aware of how the procedure works. Let us take a look at how this works.
Types Of WillowsWhen you look at the cricket bat market, you will notice that there is a large variety of bats priced at varying ranges. Some cost way more than the others. Cricket bats are made of willows that can be characterised for balance and punch to the width of the grain.
As per the rule of thumb, bats made of narrower grain will have excellent performance and qualities but will have a shorter lifespan. Bats made from broader or harder grain last for a longer timespan, likewise the bat needs to be aged overtime the bats performance increases. Every bat is graded on its performance over time and is then categorized on the basis of grain structure. If you learn about the Imperfections and Grains of English Willow in detail then read here.
Grade 1+ willow
Grade 1+ is the best willow available in the market. Priced over Rs 32000- 35000 for a full sized blade and over Rs 14000 for a junior blade. This bat has 8-12 blemish free straight grains, and are unbleached.
Grade 1 willow
Grade 1 willow is used in very high quality English willow bats. They too have 8-12 blemish free straight grains but have broader grains and slightly red edges. They are unbleached and are priced above INR 20000.
Grade 2 willow
These unbleached English willow bats come with minor blemishes, and have redwood on edge. They have slightly irregular grain and are priced between Rs 15000 and Rs 23000 for a full sized blade and around Re 9000 to Rs 12000 for a junior blade.
Grade 3 willow
Grade 3 willow bats are English willow bats that are bleached to cover up its irregularities and grain blemishes. They are priced between Rs 10000 and Rs 15000 for a full sized blade and Rs 5000 to Rs 8000 for a junior blade.
Grade 4 willow
These English willow bats are bleached and often covered with a protective facing and are sold as “non oil” bats. These are priced between Rs 4000 and Rs 9000 for a full sized blade and Rs 2000 to Rs 4000 for a junior blade.
Kashmir willow bats are mainly found in the sub-junior bats. Kashmir willow is harder, brownish and drier than English willow. Their performance over time diminishes, while having a short life span too. These are good starter bats against softer safety balls. These bats are relatively cheaper than the rest of their counterparts. Priced at below Rs 5000, these bats are a good bargain.
Maintenance Of Cricket Bats
Cricket bats are manufactured from a fairly soft material that is highly fibrous. This material is called the Salix Alba Caerulea or more popularly known as cricket bat willow. The cricket bat has to go through a lot of wear and tear during any game. To make sure that the bat does not fail during the game and to increase the punch of the bat, a maintenance process of preparing a cricket bat before any match is advisable.
Cricket balls hit the bat-like missiles, maintaining a bat will help the willow perform better while allowing the blade to perform well. We take a closer look at the procedures that help make the bat more optimum during games and help with the maintenance of the bat.
What Does “Running In” A Cricket Bat Mean?
“Running In” refers to the preparation and maintenance process a bat owner goes through to increase the performance and life span of the bat. There are various methods you can use to run in your cricket bat, but the oldest way of doing so is by constant knocking and ball practice on the new bat. This allows the bat to live a longer life while helping it to perform better with age.
There are some companies that claim that their bats are always ready to use and require no running in. This may seem attractive but is not advised as an industrial running in at times is ‘over pressed’ and not coated with oil properly. This affects the cricket bat’s performance even more, as a result giving it a very short life span. The whole point of maintaining a bat is to increase its qualities over the years.
A cricket bat should also be crafted to give out the most optimal ping and punch; this can be easily achieved by knocking the bat at certain intervals of time while giving it a good practice on the net every now and then. The overall performance, life, and strength of the bat increases after you start the maintenance process.
Running in the cricket bat is actually very simple and requires no extra brain power. It is always good to start preparing the bat as soon as you purchase it. Before taking it for a spin in the nets, always let the bat go through a process of knocking and oiling before it even touches its first ball. This is indeed a job that requires tremendous patience, but the outcome of this will make your bat worth the extra effort.
Once you order your cricket bat, the first thing to do is prepare it for better performance. As mentioned earlier, this can be done through many self-explanatory methods like oiling and knocking. These two processes go hand in hand and are responsible for increasing the durability and strength of the cricket bat. Let us assume that your cricket bat gets delivered, and you notice that the bat has a natural polished finish.
Step 1- The first step to prepare your cricket bat will be to oil it. This is followed by long hours of constant knocking of the bat. Many bats come with exclusive raw linseed oil with their packaging. This is for the sole purpose of preparing the bat before knocking it. Cover the edges with oil as well while also applying a thin film on the main face of the bat. Avoid spilling oil on the bat or over coating the bat with extra linseed oil. Keep a cloth with you at all times to spread the oil over the main face of the bat.
Step 2- After applying sufficient oil, you will notice that a thin film of oil has formed on the surface of the bat. If you happen to see oil run down the bat when you hold it upright then you might have applied too much oil on it. Wipe off this extra oil and leave the bat horizontally for a couple of hours, preferably overnight.
Step 3- A few hours should be sufficient for letting the bat absorb the linseed oil. Repeat the procedure again, but this time, use oil less than you used the first time. Give it a light rub and leave it for drying again for another 6 hours. Now, your bat is ready for the next process called knocking.
Knocking the cricket bat is a crucial thing for the performance of the bat. It hardens and knits the fibrous texture of grains on the front side of the bat. This process of preparing is called running in your bat. After a cricket bat has gone through the running-in process, only then is it ready to take on balls coming at 90 mph while delivering more driving power and longer life span of the bat.
The following is a technique to knock the cricket bat:
Step 1- Try to find an old leather ball and start slowly hitting the front face of the bat with the ball. This has to continuously be done for two hours so strap yourself in for a comedy special or sitcom marathon. Many people have multiple views on knocking the bat with a leather ball. Some prefer using a wooden ball or a mallet. But in case you are using a mallet, then wrap sock around it for softer initial knocks.
Step 2- It is always advisable to knock every region of the blade. Work on the edges in a methodical fashion and repeat the same from up to down following through the central blade. Cricket bats are designed to get hit by the ball in the lower middle section of the bat, which is around 4-12 inches from the bottom up. Thus, one should always knock more in that specific area.
Step 3- After thoroughly knocking for the first 2 hours, take a break. You can either plan to take a break for a few hours or could choose to keep it overnight, but before keeping the bat down rub some line seed oil on the front surface, or leave an open weave cloth over it, this would have enough oil to prevent the bats surface from drying.
Step 4- After resting the bat for the night (or a few hours), take a wooden bat mallet without the sock wrapped around it and gently start knocking the face and edges of the bats surface. Make sure to cover all the regions properly, especially the lower part of the blade.
Step 5- 10 minutes after knocking softly, gradually increase the force of the knocks. This is an important stage for any willow bat so make sure to cover every region on the bat where the ball can hit it, even the edges. This step might take 2 more hours.
Preparing the bat is a tedious process and thus takes a lot of patience. The bat has to be aged and knocked and oiled many times to reach its epitome. Running in the bat is a great way to get the bat ready for any ball. It is, however, very rewarding, once you put in the efforts to prepare the bat.
Step 6- After spending all this time and resources on preparing the bat, it is time to break it in, so take the bat outside and start hitting an old used leather ball and practice some short range shots with it. This is when you will truly begin to feel the cricket bat, and its craft. During this time make sure to get a good work around every part of the bat. You will soon feel a comfort spot in the bat. Once you obtain a certain comfort with the bat, take it to the nets to hit better shots.
Step 7- While practicing on the net, avoid using compo balls or any ball that is not made up of leather. Spend an hour or so playing defensive strokes, with the occasional well time drive and pull. Be careful with the face and edges of the bat.
There is a simple method of telling whether you have properly knocked it or not, is when you are hitting the bat with old leather balls, if the balls are leaving an indentation then you might have to knock and oil the whole thing again.
Step 8- After an overall 6 hours of knocking, the bat is now ready to take another round at the nets. Many people often prefer paying an extra amount to get the bat run in. As long as it is done with dedication and patience then it may be better to give it for the run in.
Step 9- In this second round, start using newer balls to play with while still responding in a defensive stroke while attacking once a while. Notice the indentations on the bat; if there are fewer indentations then the knocking seemed to have worked. But the whole point of oiling and knocking prepare a bat where indentations are impossible. Spend another hour knocking the bat, get a friend involved, and take shifts knocking it.
Step 10- After 7 hours of overall knocking, head toward the nets again and start playing with new balls. Keep an eye for indentations and preferably focus on timed shots rather than big hitting. You can also take short breaks from the nets to go and knock for a few minutes and then back to the nets.
Cricket bats are indeed fun; the best ones take time to reach their peak while equally challenging the batsman for an improved game and performance. In many ways, a bat has to be given more attention than any other cricket accessory, but the payoff is huge and totally worth it. So, avoid getting pre-knocked or oiled bats, rather take your own time to knock the bat at your pace.
If you are not aware what you require to play your first cricket game then read here.