When deciding what cricket bat to buy, several factors should be taken into account. Of course, for a beginner, this can seem quite intimidating. Cricket bats may look quite similar and in some cases they are adorned with smart, classy stickers that make them look like they were designed for professional use, although this can also make them look quite cool! A crucial first measure is to way up your budgetary constraints against your needs and the level you are playing at. Are you playing in a competitive championship, or just having fun in the park with your friends and family? Also, it is handy to learn how to examine the structure of each bat, taking into consideration such things as the grain, profile, weight, edges, sweet spot, etc. Finally, you should match the right bat to suit your height, strength and style of play.
1) Visit a Store
In this case, I mean a real bricks-and-mortar store. Of course, some initial online research is great, but ultimately these are only images and you’ll really want to go and handle the bats for yourself to get a good idea of what feels right for you.
Additionally, you can get expert advice in person if you visit a store that specialises in cricket. Staff are on hand to assist you in finding the right bat and most are players or former players with experience.
You don’t necessarily have to make a purchase at this point and it would be useful to follow up with further online research about the bats you were recommended. Reading reviews, ratings and comments in forums will help you determine the best option.
2) Factor in Your Budget
It’s a good idea to set yourself a budget for buying a cricket bat before visiting a store. This will help you and the specialist to narrow down the options available to you. Bear in mind though that price should be considered but shouldn’t be your only
3) Consider Your Intended Use
Cricket bats can cost anything from £20 to over £1,000! Don’t buy an expensive cricket bat intended for test cricket use if you are only hitting a tennis ball off your Nan’s underarm bowling! Seriously, a £300 bat can be a waste of money unless you are playing in a serious tournament and use the bat regularly. Conversely, buying cheap bats that break and constantly need replacing can also result in a long term waste.
Prepare to invest if you’re playing in a proper championship because you’ll need a bat that is robust and can stand up to persistent hard hitting. However, if you will only be playing in the park with your buddies then you don’t need to spend too much. Considering your intended use will help in making your decision.
4) Think About Which Type of Ball You Will Use
If you are playing in a serious league or championship, you will be using a heavy grade leather ball for match play and consequently you will need a sturdy bat that can withstand continuous impact from such a hard ball. However, if you are a casual player knocking around a lighter ball, consider a bat designed for casual use. For example, some cheaper bats are specifically designed to be used against tennis balls.
5) Rely on Reputable Brands When in Doubt
A good rule of thumb is to buy a bat made buy a popular brand. Obviously, they are popular because a lot of people use them and therefore the quality has social validity. Further research into these brands can also be carried out online. Look at reviews and ratings. Join online forums and read what other cricketers are saying about them. Choose brands like Kookaburra, GM, Gray Nicolls, Slazenger and New Balance.
6) Choose Which Type of Willow is Used
Cricket bats are typically made of willow, except for some very cheap bats that are made of pine, but willow is easily the best. English Willow has the most ‘spring’ and is by far the most common material used to make bats. It also tends to be the most expensive, although there are many grades and some good cheaper bats are made out of it as well. High-end bats made of English Willow are the choice of the serious club player.
7) Inspect the Face of the Blade for Grains
The number of grain lines, and the spacing between them, are indicative of the bat’s resilience and performance. Usually, the more grains, the higher the performance but lower the durability, and vice versa. As a general guideline, go with bats that have between six and ten grains. In addition, ensure that the grain profile on the back is the same as that of the face and select bats that have roughly equally spaced grains.
8) Check the Handle
Inspect the handle to ensure it is centred on the blade. Off-centred handles make the bat cumbersome and unwieldy. Check the rubber grip over the handle for handling and control. Also ensure that the handle is comfortable in your hands as they come in various diameters, so make sure it is thin enough for you to grip it firmly.
9) Choose the Right Size Bat
Bats come in various sizes and the size you should choose will depend on your height. This covered more extensively in my post How to Choose a Cricket Bat, which includes a sizing chart.
10) Find the ‘Sweet Spot’
Bats come in a variety of shapes called the profile, and the sweet spot of the bat is where the profile is thickest. If you are already a club player with experience then you will know where you hit the ball most often. However, if you are a beginner, choose a bat with the sweet spot in the middle until you develop and discover where you favour striking the ball.
11) Check the Bat’s ‘Pick-up’
Take up the bat in your hands and feel the weight. Swing the bat through a variety of shots to determine if it is right for you. Hold the bat out at arm’s length with your weaker hand. Do you tire too soon? Or is it too light? This is why visiting a store and physically holding a bat is essential for selecting the right one for you.
12) If You Are a Beginner, Choose a Pre-treated Bat
Not all bats a ready for use right away. Bats can easily crack and break too soon if not properly treated. The process of ‘knocking in’ a bat involves a treatment with linseed oil, followed by several sessions of hitting with a bat mallet or leather ball to simulate being struck by a ball during match play. This brings the bat to its peak level of performance, ready to use. If you are just starting out, you won’t know how to do this. Select a bat that is already knocked in.
Just a word of caution. After all is said and done it is probably prudent to inspect the blade for damages. You wouldn’t expect a new bat bought from a store to be damaged but it is just as well to check all the same. Check for splits between the grains and obvious dents and other flaws. Also, do this before each use.
I hope this guide helped you in your decision-making processes when deciding what bat to buy. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.