Sports accessories

Why size doesn’t matter when it comes to modern cricket bats

September 6, 2018

Cricket balls are being hit harder and travelling further than ever before.

According to Cricinfo, just 5.3 per cent of deliveries in one-day international cricket were hit for boundaries in 1980.

At the most recent World Cup in 2015, that number had almost doubled to 10.5 per cent.

Before 2006, no team had ever managed to post an ODI total in excess of 400 runs. Since then, the feat has been achieved 18 times.

England – who are among the favourites to win the next World Cup in the latest cricket betting – did so with ease when hitting a world-record total of 444 against Pakistan in 2016.

To the untrained eye, it is the huge bats being wielded by modern batsmen that are largely responsible for such a run hike.

“I get worried when bats are really big and really light,” said Ricky Ponting in 2016. He was backed up by Mike Brearley, England’s 1981 Ashes-winning captain, who declared:

“The time has come to restrict the size of bat edges. The game is tilted too far in the batsman’s favour.”

Both men sit on the MCC World Cricket Committee that recently approved new rules to limit the size of bats, which will come into effect from 1 October this year.

Whether the move will stop mis-hits and edges flying for boundaries, though, is unclear.

Because cut a little deeper, and the science behind the theory isn’t quite so convincing.

The reality is that a modern-day cricket bat currently weighs no more than it has done at any time in history.

You don’t need to be an expert, then, to understand that the power must be coming from elsewhere.

Even so, we spoke to one to help debunk the myth.

Chris King is the personal bat-maker for both Alastair Cook – England’s all-time highest Test run scorer – and Alex Hales – who holds the record for England’s highest-ever individual ODI score – among many others.

So if there is one man who understands that there is far more to modern-day run-scoring than merely the size of the willow, it’s him.

“Everybody gets obsessed with the shape of the cricket bat, but the actual power comes from how well the piece of wood is pressed,” says King, who works for Gray-Nicolls, a manufacturer that have been honing their craft since the 19th century and also provide the bats for names including Australia’s David Warner, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and South Africa’s JP Duminy.

“But that is an area of bat-making that most people don’t understand. They assume it’s just the size. If it was that easy, it would be a lot easier to make a good cricket bat.

“I often joke with people on social media that it’s like saying a Ferrari is fast because it’s red. It completely undermines what the engine is.”

Pressing technique – whereby the fibres of the wood are compressed together to firm up the blade in preparation for hitting a hard ball – has not changed much down the years, though bats are pressed slightly less nowadays.

Batsmen also now use tighter-grain wood, sourced from trees that have grown slowly in conducive conditions for up to 20 years. This means modern bat surfaces are harder and therefore closer to peak performance, immediately explosive but less durable.

But neither change in approach has had an impact on the weight or size of the bat.

 

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