The blade of a cricket bat is a wooden block that is generally flat on the striking face and with a ridge on the reverse (back) which concentrates wood in the middle where the ball is generally hit. The bat is traditionally made from willow wood, specifically from a variety of White Willow called Cricket Bat Willow (Salix alba var. caerulea), treated with raw (unboiled) linseed oil, which has a protective function. This variety of willow is used as it is very tough and shock-resistant, not being significantly dented nor splintering on the impact of a cricket ball at high speed, while also being light in weight. The face of the bat may be covered with a protective film.
The blade is connected to a long cylindrical cane handle, similar to that of a tennis racquet, by means of a splice. The handle is usually covered with a rubber grip. Bats incorporate a wooden spring design where the handle meets the blade. The current design of a cane handle spliced into a willow blade was the invention in the 1880s of Charles Richardson, a pupil of Brunel and the first chief engineer of the Severn railway tunnel.
The edges of the blade closest to the handle are known as the shoulders of the bat, and the bottom of the blade is known as the toe of the bat.
Law 6 of the Laws of Cricket, as the rules of the game are known, state that the length of the bat may be no more than 38 in (965 mm) and the width no more than 4.25 in (108 mm). Bats typically weigh from 2 lb 7 oz to 3 lb (1.1 to 1.4 kg) though there is no standard. Appendix E of the Laws of Cricket set out more precise specifications. Modern bats are usually hand made in India or Pakistan due to the very low cost of labor. However a few specialists in England, Australia, and New Zealand still make bats, mostly with use of a CNC lathe. The art of hand-making cricket bats is known as pod shaving.
Bats were not always this shape. Before the 18th century bats tended to be shaped similarly to a modern hockey sticks. This may well have been a legacy of the game's reputed origins. Although the first forms of cricket are obscure, it may be that the game was first played using shepherd's crooks.
Until the rules of cricket were formalized in the 19th century, the game usually had lower stumps, the ball was bowled underarm (a style of bowling which has since fallen out of common practice and is now in most cases illegal), and batsmen did not wear protective pads. As the game changed, so it was found that a differently shaped bat was better. The bat generally recognized as the oldest bat still in existence is dated 1729 and is on display in the Sandham Room at the Oval in London
MaintenanceWhen first purchased, most bats are not ready for immediate use and require knocking-in in order to allow the soft fibers to strike a hard new cricket ball without causing damage to the bat, and allowing full power to be transferred to the shot. Knocking-in involves striking the surface with an old cricket ball or a special mallet. This compacts the soft fibers within the bat and reduces the risk of the bat snapping. The bat may also need raw linseed oil, which fills in the gaps between the fibers.
Variations/technology of the cricket bat
Various companies have over the years tried new shapes that come within the laws of the game to make a name for themselves and to improve sales. In the 1960s the first shoulderless bats appeared from Slazenger; the 1970s saw double-sided bats from Warsop Stebbing.
In 1974 the first GN100 Scoop was released; this was the first bat to turn shaping on its head by removing the wood from the centre of the rear of the bat. This bat quickly became a big seller and various scooped bats such as the GN500, Dynadrive and Viper have been released by Gray Nicolls ever since, including a re-release of the Scoop itself for the 2012 English season. The removal of wood from the rear has been copied by many other companies without much critical acclaim.
In 1979 Australian cricketer Dennis Lillee briefly used an Com Bat aluminum metal bat. After some discussion with the umpires, and after complaints by the English team that it was damaging the ball, he was urged by the Australian captain Greg Chappell to revert to a wooden bat. The rules of cricket were shortly thereafter amended, stating that the blade of a bat must be made solely of wood.
In 2004 Newbery created the Uzi with a truncated blade and elongated handle for the new Twenty20 format of the game. This change allowed more wood to be placed in the middle, as more attacking shots are played in the shorter version of the game.
In 2005 Kookaburra released a new type of bat that had a Carbon fiber-reinforced polymer support down the spine of the bat. It was put on the bat to provide more support to the spine and blade of the bat, thus prolonging the life of the bat. The first player to use this new bat in international cricket was Australian Ricky Ponti. However this innovation in cricketing technology was controversially banned by the ICC as they were advised by the MCC that it unfairly gave more power in the shot and was unfair in competition, as not all players had access to this new technology. But this was not taken lightly by Australian media as Ponting had scored plenty of runs since he started to use his new bat and English reporters had blamed this success on the new, 'unfair' piece of technology in his bat.
In 2005 Newbery created a carbon fiber handle, the C6 and C6+, which weighed 3 ounces less than a standard laminated cane and rubber handle. It was used by Newbery and Puma for 3 years before the concept was copied by Gray Nicolls with a hollow plastic tube. However, this provoked the MCC to change the law on materials in handles amid fears that the new technology would lead to an increase in the distance the ball was hit. Now only 10% of the volume of the handle can be other than cane.
In 2008 Gray-Nicolls launched a bat with a second face on the base of the back of the bat. It was purely a marketing move as no paid players used the bat in competition. In 2011 they also produced a bat with an offset handle position known as The Edge in what was also purely a marketing move.
Also in late 2008, SAFBats created a cricket bat with an offset edge, the edge offsetting allowed for an extended middle, better swing weight and increased performance without compromising the cricket bat's balance. The production models were available in 2009, and the bat won awards in 2010 and 2012
In 2009 an extreme version of the Newbery Uzi shape was launched by Mongoose. It was named the MMi3 and had a very much shorter blade and longer handle than had been seen before. Launched with a fanfare of publicity it proclaimed the idea of not defending the ball in the T20 format and purely playing attacking shots. The firm also produced a conventional bat, CoR3 with a splice hidden in the handle. This bat was marketed as being able to hit sixes from all parts of the blade.
Also in 2009 Black Cat Cricket launched a T20 format bat, the Joker. It worked on a similar principle to other T20 bats with the blade length reduced by 2 inches and a longer handle, but uniquely reduced the width of the bat to 4 inches in an adult bat.
Kashmiri Willow Bats
The willow used in making cricket bats was brought in by the British, who ruled India, during the 1920s. The villages nestled high in the mountains which were abundant with willow of Kashmir, and accounted for the majority of the world's cricket bats during 1970s when its manufacturing started. These bats are not only popular in India, but also in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The bats cost from $10 to $200. Generally considered to be heavier than English willow bats, these bats are preferred by players of the sub-continent like Yuvraj Singh and Sreesanth, who prefer the greater speed generated off these bats. Traditional methods are still used by the industry established in Kashmir, whereby bats are shaped by hand and eye measurements, combining traditional tools with modern technology.
Kashmiri bats require constant knocking-in and oiling in order to make the bat good enough to use in a cricket match. Knocking-in is done so as to make the fibers of the willow blade compress together which helps the bat bear the impact of the ball. The best way is to use an old ball or bat mallet. Constant knocking for six hours is required so that the edges of the bat are well shaped. Another major aspect bat maintenance is oiling. Oil is applied on the back, toe, front and edges of the bat to make it more durable and to help the fibers get knitted together properly..Some of the districts were these bats are made in Kashmir are Anantnag, Baramula, and Pahalgam.
Some of the companies that produce Kashmiri bats are Sareen Sports Industries, SG Cricket, BDM Cricket Bats, and Syndicate Sports Goods.