A Guide to Cricket Bats

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English Willow Bats

English willow is the traditional material used for the manufacture of cricket bats. The making of cricket bats is a very complex, lengthy and specialist procedure.

All bats have different characteristics, including balance, pickup and visual appearance.

At the beginning of the bat making process, the willow is graded (ranging from Grade 1 – 4). A Grade 1 bat will be of the highest quality willow and as a result, the most expensive. The grains (typically 8-12) will be straight and even. It will have excellent performance qualities, however as it is ‘softer’ it will potentially have a shorter lifespan than a ‘harder’ bat with fewer grains. It comes with minimal marking or discoloration on the face, although sometimes there may be some red wood on the edge of the blade. There may also be the odd small knot or speck on the edge or back of the bat. The playing area of Grade 1 Willow should however be clean and unblemished.

The number of grains reduce and markings become more visible and irregular on bats graded 2 – 4 which is reflected in a lower price.

Kashmir Willow Bats

Kashmir willow is grown in the Kashmir region of Pakistan and India. Due to the ‘climatic’ conditions the timber tends to be drier with narrower grains, which as a consequence may reduce performance and durability.

We consider Kashmir bats to be perfectly fine for soft ball use (windballs and aeroballs) and some may provide a reasonable starting bat for hard ball use.

East European Willow

The East European Willow offers a cheaper alternative to English timber and as it is grown in a similar climate, the performance is superior to Kashmir Willow bats. Our understanding is that Kookaburra are the only company to offer such a product.

It was introduced in the Kookaburra Kahuna range in 2015 and is being offered in the Ignite range in 2016. Although the wood looked greener which may indicate a heavier type bat, the weight and balance was surprisingly light and based on positive customer feedback in terms of performance and durability, we are happy to recommend the Kookaburra Ignite Junior as an excellent option for juniors embarking on hardball cricket.

The Importance of Knocking-in a New Bat

In order to ensure maximum performance and to protect the life span of your new bat it is essential that your bat is knocked-in.

The first step of the process is to lightly oil the bat using raw linseed oil or ideally a specialist bat oil. Spread a thin, even amount over the main face of the bat being careful not to apply oil to the splice of the bat or over any of the bat stickers.  You should NOT see any oil running if you stand the bat upright. If this happens there is too much oil so wipe it away to only leave a thin film. Lie the bat down horizontally and leave in this position for 24 hours.

Begin the knocking-in process using a wooden bat mallet. Work down the edges in a methodical fashion and then up and down through the central blade gradually increase the force of your blows as you progress.  We recommend you spend at least 2 hours on this procedure. The exact amount of time needed will be entirely dependent upon the individual bat.

We recommend that your first session with you new bat is carried out using an old ball. DO NOT use new balls at this stage.

If you have knocked your cricket bat in properly these older leather balls should not be leaving any deep indentations on the blades face. If they are, then go back and repeat the knocking-in process.

Assuming you have followed these steps your cricket bat should be ready for use under match conditions.

Maintenance

To maintain your bat in peak condition we recommend you to follow this simple advice.

Don’ts:-

  • Don’t expose to extremes of temperature
  • Avoid prolonged spells in car boots
  • Don’t over-oil. It is more dangerous to over-oil than to under-oil. Over-oiling adds weight, spoils driving power and may cause rot
  • Don’t ever, ever stand the bat in oil
  • Don’t allow the bat to become damp
  • Don’t misuse or treat carelessly off the pitch, for example at nets, or in changing rooms
  • Don’t use cheap hard balls. These will damage the bat
  • Don’t continue to play with a damaged bat; this will aggravate the damage to a point where the bat may be beyond repair

Do’s:-

  • Do prepare the bat carefully
  • Do store the bat in off-season in a cool dry atmosphere away from excessive heat or damp
  • Do re-oil the bat after any prolonged period of non-use: it’s particularly important to remember to do this prior to using in pre-season indoor nets
  • Do inspect the bat regularly for damage in play and repair promptly

Repairs and Service

In normal use, superficial face and edge marks along with slight surface cracking will occur. This is to be expected and it does not detract from the performance of the bat.
Other damage, such as splitting of the toe as a result of hitting a yorker, or damage caused by a mis-timed shot, can more often than not be repaired and once repaired the bat should continue to give excellent service.

We can offer a wide range of bat repair services including:-

  • Re-Handle
  • Split Toe Repair
  • Cracked Edges
  • Clean up (including sanding and re-grip)

Please contact us to discuss your specific requirements.