The cricket bat has evolved over the years. What used to be a thin piece of willow wood has quadrupled in size. There was a time when scoring boundaries was difficult, let alone sixes, but that time has long gone now, especially with the introduction of 20-20 cricket.
Nowadays, batsmen hit more sixes than four, they can score anything, chase anything, and the credit should be given to the modern bats.
That said, the current-generation batsmen are more powerful, and the boundaries have also gotten shorter, which are important reasons for high scoring matches.
But let's leave the latter reasons for some other day and focus on how the cricket bats have changed over the year and have enabled power hitting.
Dive in and learn how modern cricket bats have enabled power hitting.
History of cricket bats
Before talking about the modern cricket bats, let's understand how the blades have evolved over the year.
From 1624 to the 18th, cricket bats used to be hockey shaped stick with bowlers balling underarm. In 1770, the rules related to bowling changed, so does the shape of the cricket bat. Now, the bats featured some swell at the bottom.
In the 1820's, round-arm bowling came into the picture, which further affected the bat's shape. They become lighter with some more swell. Finally, in 1864, over-arm bowling was introduced, so the blades became even more lightweight.
And as time passed, the bats grew both in size and weight and evolved to the current state.
It is clear beyond question that cricket has changed over the years, so does the cricket bats. Batting was not always about hitting sixes; it was about the technique.
But when it became about sixes, there was no choice left for the players but to cope with the game.
One way to master modern cricket was to have better bats, so the bats have become better. But what exactly has changed with the bats? Let's discuss those changes one by one.
The center and the weight of the cricket bats have changed over the years. And these two have a significant impact on the hitting prowess of the batting blade. The larger the center or the sweet spot, the more the chances of hitting the ball out of the park; the same is true about the weight.
Furthermore, the edges of current-gen bats have their middles. In other words, the edges are so thick that even they have sweet spots, and when the balls hit them, they fly. Plus, the curves of today's bat are just perfect. All of the previously mentioned factors and science associated with them have enabled a new level of power hitting.
Hence, it is no surprise that every batsman wants a best cricket bat with the ideal blend of weight.
So, what do typical modern specifications look like, and how do they affect the bat.
1. Sweet Spot
The sweet spot or middle is generally the cricket bat area that falls between 7 to 10 inches from the toe. It is part of the cricket bat from where players can hit the ball to the maximum distance.
People are still trying to figure out the science behind the middle to make the most of it. The modern bats have larger sweet spots packed densely with wood. Nevertheless, some bats have a greater sweet spot surface area than others.
The weight of the cricket bat is an essential factor that has enabled power hitting. It directly affects the six-hitting ability of the bat.
The heavier the bat, the longer the ball will go after connecting a hit. And modern players love playing with heavier bats. Hence, they hit more sixes than previous generations.
However, playing with a heavy bat has disadvantages too. It isn’t easy to middle balls with heavier bats as the efforts required to move the bat increases with the weight.
You might have noticed a curve in a cricket bat. That curve has many functions, including balancing the bat, adding finesse to various shots, and enlarging the sweet spot.
One of the curve's most critical functions is to make playing some of the shots more comfortable to play. It allows players to play shots at angles that would have been impossible otherwise to play.
Another important reason for having a curve is that it increases the bat's sweet spot area without increasing the bat's weight. The combination of weight distribution and curve gives the bat what we call the middle or the sweet spot, so there will be no definite middle without curvature. That’s why you won’t find bats without curves in international cricket.
You can imagine what you might be missing if the bat has less curvature or no curvature at all. If the bat has the same thickness throughout the length, there are chances fast pace deliveries might break it, like in the bats' toes. When a quick ball hits the toe of the bat, it cannot tolerate the ball’s kinetic energy because it contains less wood.
Hence, the toes are easily breakable, and no surprise, they don't play any role in shot-making.
The bat manufacturers nowadays understand the importance and science behind the curve. That's why the modern bats have more significant curves than the earlier bats. But ICC has laid out rules limiting the bats' thickness to keep the game fair for both bowlers and batsmen.
Moreover, the curve can be shifted upwards and downwards, so does the middle depending on the playing conditions and on the players. Some players like to have middles or the curve slight on the upper side, while some like it the low towards the toe. But, it all depends on the playing conditions; on low bounce pitches, the curve will be on the lower side, while on pitches with high bounce, it will be on the upper side.
However, the position of the curve doesn't affect the batting. It is the presence of a curve that matters.
Modern bats have thicker edges than earlier times as thick edges mean deeper sweet spot, which in return increases the bat's hitting ability. Besides extending the middle, thicker edges also improve the swing weight and enhance performance without affecting the bat's balance.
The above facts affect the hitting ability of cricket bats. However, each player has his own definition of weight, size, and curve. Usually, you will not find players using the exact same bat, particularly at the international level.
They give their own specifications to the manufacturers, and the manufacturers produce bats accordingly. For example- someone like Andre Russell, MS Dhoni, and Chris Gayle use heavy bats. On the other hand, a player like Virat Kohli uses comparatively lighter bats.
Further, batsmen use different kinds of bats in discreet formats and playing conditions. But one thing is common in all of those bats that they won't let the player down and the batsman can hit boundaries and sixes at will.
Besides the things mentioned above, several other factors have enabled power hitting. The batsmen have become more powerful, even if that means they are no longer fit for playing in longer formats. They can clear ground without bothering about the boundary size.
Without a doubt, cricket bats have changed the game of cricket. The modern bats are one reason why we see batsman clearing boundaries without breaking a sweat, why teams can set those humongous targets, and, more importantly, why cricket has become fascinating. Hence, it is evident to understand the importance of choosing the right cricket bat. And once you have the perfect piece, you should know how to take good care of it.
Stay tuned for more exciting pieces about your favorite sporting equipment.