The game of cricket is full of decisions. Bat or bowl first? Should I play a shot or leave it? Should I play on the front or back foot? All these are important decisions in cricket but the most important decision any batsman must make is what cricket bat to use.
In this post, I want to discuss the idea of using custom cricket bats versus factory made bats, and some advantages they may convey.
Cricket bats are generally made of English Willow, of which there are various grades. This can affect the weight and performance of the bat. Some bats may look the same but have a completely different weight from each other. For this reason, the ‘pickup’ – or how the bat feels in the hands – is very important. Opening batsmen may want a lighter bat when playing against quicker deliveries. Middle and lower order players who like to hit the ball hard and play shots would likely prefer a heavier bat.
Initial Assessment and Weighing Up the Requirements
When a batsman is looking for something custom-made for him, the manufacturer will usually call the batsman into their store in order to get the specifications for the bat.
This is because the height and strength of the batsman and also the pickup are some key factors. Smaller players are not going to use long-handle heavy bats, due to being short and not very strong. Taller players will want something a bit heavier. This seems obvious but, because everybody is unique, the maker will get the player to hold and swing a number of different bat weights in order to gauge their style and stroke play action. From there, the maker will then have a good idea of what weight to make the bat.
Size and Shape
Then there is the consideration of size. As seen in my previous post Cricket Bat Sizes, bats range in size from the juniors (1-6 then Harrow) to full size short and long handle bats for men. There are also long blade bats for taller players. These are customised to meet the specific requirements of the player.
Another factor is playing style. The maker will already have judged, from the weighing, the style the player is most likely to play, be it off the front foot, off the back foot, defensive, etc. This will inform the profile of the bat, or where most of the willow will be placed in the ‘swell’ of the spine. A front foot player, coming forward and driving a lot, will prefer a low profile bat, while a back foot player, who hooks and pulls with a cross bat, is going to better off with a high profile bat. The profile can also be placed in the middle for more balanced players.
The swell or shape of the spine will influence not only the profile but also the weight of the bat. A heavier bat will have a larger swell, which sticks out more at the back. This will increase the power of the shot when struck but also adds weight. For players with less brute strength but more finesse, bats with smaller swells can be constructed, which offer less power but more agility and dexterity.
The face of the Bat
The shape of the face of the bat can be made either flat or round as the batsman will have a style that could be suited to either. A rounder bat face will enable the batsman to steer the ball with skilled use of deflection, while a very flat blade can confer a lot of power on the drive.
Additional Features – Batsman’s Preferences
In addition to allowing the maker to come up with a bat to meet the batsman’s unique physical and playing qualities, custom manufacturing techniques also allow the batsman to specify several other features.
Customisation allows the batsman to choose the kind of pressing involved. Pressing is important as the harder the press, the longer the bat will last but it can take a longer time for the bat to be ‘knocked in’ and thus longer to reach its peak performance. A softer press will make the bat perform straight away but will pass its peak more quickly and need replacing. Thus, pressing is down to the discretion of the batsman, as this is a matter of personal preference.
Furthermore, the edges of the bat can be made straight or with varying amounts of tapered, the bat can be given varying degrees of concave (none, minimal or maximal), which affects the overall pickup and performance. This is down to the preference of the batsman and selecting the right specifications in this department comes with playing experience and knowledge of one’s own playing style.
Customisation also gives makers the opportunity to offer optional extras: knocking in, a covering of protective oil, toe guards and bat covers to name a few of those.
Custom or Factory? Some Final Considerations
As can be seen, a good picture of the requirements of a bat can be built up from assessing the batsman’s height, weight, strength and style. From here, a maker can tailor a custom bat, made especially for that specific player. This can greatly enhance performance and confidence when walking out to the middle as there are many options and ways in which bat features can be tweaked. However, budgetary constraints can play a big part in bat selection also. Custom bats necessarily are more expensive than factory bats as they are bespoke handmade and not produced en masse or in batches.
Factory bats have the advantage of being produced more cheaply and, because of advances in manufacturing techniques, knowledge and machinery, today, these bats are of an excellent quality. So even though a factory bat will be more generic and designed not specifically for you, there is nevertheless a great selection of bats in terms of willow grade, weight, size, profile, face and other specs and you can surely find something that is ideal for you, both for your style and your wallet.
Let me know your thoughts. All comments are welcome in the comments section below.