Choosing a Cricket Bat !
Choosing a cricket bat can be overwhelming when you see a range of different bats lined up at the store. While it is a personal decision and you should go for the one you’re most comfortable with, there are a few key points to look for when choosing a cricket bat.
The shape of a cricket bat helps time your shots with precision. It is important to understand the characteristics of shape and how they are suited to different batting styles. The bow, edge, back profile, and swell or the sweet spot of the bat impact different aspects of batting from pickup to playing a drive or a pull shot.
The sweet spot of the bat or the swell is where you would like the bat to meet the ball when playing your shots. This part of the bat has more wood behind it and will have more impact when it hits the ball. The position and depth of the swell are two important characteristics to remember when choosing a cricket bat. There is no ideal positioning of the sweet spot that everyone should go for, as it varies depending on your style of play and the pitch conditions.
If you are a front-foot player who loves to drive the ball and adopt an aggressive style of play, you may want to go for a lower sweet spot on your bat. Along with your style of play, this position of the sweet spot also suits pitches with low bounce. The low bounce offered by the pitch with a lower sweet spot of your blade means you would be able to meet the ball on half volley when you play the drive.
A sweet spot positioned in the middle of the bat suits a batsman who has all the shots in his arsenal. If you’re a batsman who can play all range of shots and not entirely depend on a select few to get your innings going, a mid sweet spot is what you’re looking for. A batsman trying to punch the ball through the point region on a pitch with normal bounce would middle it quite well with mid sweet spot. This positioning of the sweet spot is also suitable for a front-foot batsman trying to meet the ball on half volley on a pitch with extra bounce.
If you’re an opening batsmen or someone who is likely to face many short pitched deliveries and would go for pull, hook and cut shots, a higher sweet spot will suit your style of play. This becomes more significant on pitches that offer higher bounce and if you’re playing your shots on the backfoot. Higher bounce may require the batsman to drive the ball on the backfoot, like the straight drive right back past the bowler, in the powerplay to get a boundary. If the bowler goes for a good length delivery, the batsman will need a higher sweet spot to play the ball on the rise, and punch it down through the covers for a boundary.
There are varying depths or thickness measures of the swell of a cricket bat. And depending on the thickness, the impact of the swell on the ball may vary. You get a better rebound with a bat with deeper swell and more force will be transferred on the ball when it meets the sweet spot. Along with the advantages a deeper swell offers, you may find it affecting your pick up of the bat. It again comes down to you making a personal choice with the depth of the swell as with its position.
There have been many changes in the shape and size of a cricket bat over the years. These changes have impacted the game in a big way, allowing batsmen to reinvent modern cricket and the way it’s played. In the shorter format of the game, a mistimed shot has more than often resulted in the batsman’s favour whether going for a four or sometimes six. There are many such instances where the ball gets an outside edge and yet makes it to the boundary deflecting far away from the wicket-keeper. This wouldn’t happen in the early days of the game when the edges used to be three quarters of an inch.
The modern cricket bat has thicker edges and the thickness adds more mass to the bat making it more heavy. While thinner edges may not make bats feel heavier thus not affecting the pickup, they are prone to damage when consistently hit hard. As batsman you would be more comfortable edging a fast paced delivery on a bat with thick edges for a couple of reasons.
First, thick edges tend to be durable and when you mistime a shot trying to slog a fast delivery, thick edges are less likely to be damaged. Secondly, if you’re going to play in the shorter formats like T20 cricket, you are more likely to go after the ball hard either in the powerplay or in the death overs. This is when the thick edges of your bat come in play, and give you an advantage if you mistime a shot. As thick edges add more mass and affect the pickup, you should also consider how your pickup affects your batting. Depending on your style of play, and your batting technique, you can choose to go with thicker or thinner edges.
As a batsman you would always like the ball to meet the sweet spot of the bat when playing your shots. However, during the course of a match, the bowlers tend to vary their line and length along with pace. While you anticipate the next ball to be pitched in the slot, the bowler might surprise you by targeting the blockhole. In such scenarios the ball would hit very hard at the toe end of the bat and you would feel a little jerk at the handle.
It is in such cases, when the handle of the bat is put under immense strain. There have been such incidents in international cricket, where a batsman trying to play a lofted shot meets the ball at the toe of the bat and ends up breaking the handle as the rest of the bat goes off flying.
To avoid such scenarios and protect your bat from damage, go for the bat size according to your height. A taller batsman should opt for a longer handle while a shorter batsman can go for a shorter handle on the bat. A bat with shorter blade and longer handle allows for more explosive style of play, which suits all forms of limited overs cricket. It also helps maintain balance in your shots, which is ever so crucial for an explosive style of play. Other than the two bat sizes mentioned above, there is Harrow bat size for a batsman between 5ft 4 inch to 5ft 6 inch tall, and Full size bat recommended for batsman taller that 5ft 9 inch.Bat Performance
Cricket bats are carved out of willow, and the quality of willow generally gives an indication of how well a cricket bat will perform. The two main types of willow are English and Kashmir willow. Bats with English willow last longer, and are more springy, while Kashmir willow is dryer and harder and not as durable as English willow. However, Kashmir willow is much cheaper, and is recommended for beginners.
The quality of willow affects both the performance of the bat and its price. When it comes to durability, narrow grain willow have a longer lifespan than broader grain willow. While going for the bat performance, narrow grain willow would be the choice for great performance right away, whereas, with broader grain willow you will have to wait longer before it reaches its optimum performance.
Grade 1 unbleached English willow with a slightly broader grain gives best performance. As you navigate through Grade 1 to Grade 4 you would find more blemishes, irregularities in the grain and bleached willows.
Depending on your level of play, you can find the best choice for yourself from among different grades and types of willow. For intermediate to professional level of play, you may want to go for the bat with best performance. An English willow bat with Grade 1 or 2 that has minor to no blemishes, a broader grain will serve best for someone who plays regularly for clubs, tournaments and looking for best performance. While a Grade 3 or 4 willow would suit beginners who are learning the ropes since they have long before making it to the playing XI.
Weight of the Bat
This is the most important factor when choosing your cricket bat. It is very common to hear about heavy bats being more powerful that lighter bats. Though it is true, it depends on the batsman’s power and ability to handle a heavy bat. If you are a batsman who loves to flick the ball using wrists, lighter bat would be a good option for you. Lighter bats also allow for faster bat speeds and free flow of shots. Heavy bats are durable, and more powerful adding more impact on the ball when you play your shots.
It might be enticing to go for one or the other option when choosing the weight of the bat. However, if you’re going with a heavy bat and not enough physical strength to maneuver the bat, you will find it almost impossible to play your shots. Pick up is as important as the weight on the scale, and it’s highly recommended to pick up a few bats, try a few shots to see how the grip and the bat feels in your hands. Sometimes, a heavier bat may feel light because of the weight distribution. The same can be true for a bat which is lighter on the scale. Remember, as a batsman you need to be able to swing the bat faster, and with ease, without affecting your balance. Your cricket bat needs to get the best out of your batting and if the weight pulls you down, your skills and technique is likely to take a backseat. Your comfort and ease are the most important factors to consider when choosing your bat. If you’re comfortable with a lighter bat, and can move the bat around faster and play all the hosts with ease, you can score just as many runs or even more than a batsman with a heavy bat.
Choosing your cricket bat is a personal decision. The process involves looking at different aspects of a cricket bat including its shape, size, and weight. Different aspects of the bat have different impacts on a bat’s performance. They also affect how much value a batsman gets from different shots. As most of these aspects of the cricket bat have more or less to do with the level, and style of play, height and strength of the batsman, one can say, even the process of choosing your cricket bat is a personal one.
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