05.How to choose a bat
The first and best piece of advice is to buy your cricket bat from a specialist cricket retailer. They should be able to offer good advice and help to choose a bat that’s right for you. Also, they can often offer other services such as knocking-in (preparing the bat’s surface for play) and adding a protective sleeve to the bat.
And as with any product, try to ignore any marketing hype when choosing a bat. Endorsement by your favourite cricket star is no guarantee that a bat's the right one for you.
Regardless of whether the bat’s for a youngster or an adult, it should always be selected with three things in mind:
Size (length) of the bat. A player’s height determines what size of bat will best fit them. A good rule of thumb to take your batting stance, with the toe of the bat resting against the outside of your back foot. If the bat's the right size for you, the top of its handle should rest against the inside groin of your front leg. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a kid will “grow into” a larger bat size; it could be too long or heavy for them and frustrate their playing, or cause them to learn bad batting habits. For example, it's hard to take a proper stance and play accurate strokes with a bat that's too long. And it's very hard to make pull and cut strokes with a bat that's too heavy, so the youngster won't be able to effectively learn these strokes. A bat that's too big can result in mistimed shots or even worse, getting out. Choose a bat that’s right for them now.
Weight. A bat that’s too heavy or unbalanced to be easily wielded won’t do. It won’t allow strokes to be played quickly and the player will get tired too soon. A common mistake is to buy kids (or let them choose) a bat that’s too heavy for them, just because it looks powerful. Hold the bat at arm’s length with your top hand (i.e. the left hand if you’re right handed, or vice versa). If you can’t hold it comfortably, then the bat’s too heavy for you. Most importantly, it should feel nice and light in the pick-up, i.e. when raising it back to play a shot. The balance, pick-up and overall "feel" is more important than the weight.
Type of cricket being played. There’s no point buying a top grade English willow bat just for whacking a tennis ball around the backyard. Likewise, a bat that’s intended for backyard use might not survive against a hard competition ball, and won’t play well.
What else to look for
- A handle that’s not too thick, so you can get a good grasp on it, and with a rubber grip that won’t twist or slip in your hands.
- Nice thick edges and plenty of wood in the middle of the bat help give a bat a large sweet spot. But make sure the bat isn’t too heavy or unbalanced as a result.
- Quality of construction. Look for well finished faces and edges with no rough spots, no visible flaws in the face of the bat, and check that the handle is not off centre.
- Pre-treatment: if the bat is labelled as pre-prepared or “ready to play”, the initial knocking-in has been done and the bat is OK to play straight away. This is a good feature for a junior bat when the young player can’t wait to start using it. Protective coatings, such as a clear poly sleeve on the face and a rubber toe, can help make the bat more durable. These can usually be added to the bat if the bat doesn't come with them.
- If you’re playing serious competition cricket, it’s worth choosing a bat that suits your style of play. Some bats are designed for big hitting; others are designed for light, fast pick-up and precise strokes. And once you’ve picked your model, try a few samples of it; there can be variation from sample to sample, so look for the very best of the bunch.
Looking after your bat
- A good quality bat deserves to be properly maintained. Knocking-in the face and edges by lightly hitting them with an old leather ball or a bat mallet compresses and toughens the wood, reducing the risk of cracking. Oiling with linseed oil helps seal and protect the wood. Get expert advice on these treatments as you can overdo them. Pre-treated bats with protective sleeves don't generally need oiling and the initial knocking-in has already been done for you.
Types of willow
Cricket bats are made from willow wood, except for the very cheapest of bats which might be made from pine. Willow is ideal for cricket bats; it’s a soft fibrous wood and is very springy, giving good striking power in the centre of the bat.
There are two types of willow used in bats: English and Kashmir.
English willow is the best type of willow and is the most expensive. English willow bats generally cost over $100 at minimum, and the best bats can cost well over $500. There are different grades of English willow, ranging from G1+ (the very best) down to G4.
Kashmir willow, grown in India, is a harder, denser variety. It’s less springy than English willow so doesn’t offer as good playability. However, it’s also cheaper and harder wearing, and for these reasons most junior bats are made from Kashmir willow. Premium quality Kashmir can give similar playability to low-grade English willow.
This article last reviewed December 2006.