I’m currently sitting in my lounge (I have the afternoon off) watching the test match. But that’s not all I’m doing. As I’m watching England accumulate runs I’m also engaged in the crucial activity of knocking in my new bat. I have a game tomorrow and I’m convinced that my new blade will instantly transform me into the new Ben Stokes. It’s a tall order as I’m currently more like Chris Tavare.
I decided to buy a new bat because I was sick and tired of people telling me that a run a ball often isn’t enough these days. I can manoeuvre the ball into gaps quite well, rotate the strike, and hit the bad balls for four pretty well, but I need to accelerate more effectively at the back end of an innings. At the moment I can sometimes get bogged down and frustrated.
A friend of mine identified what he though the problem might be back in May. He looked at my current bat, which is about eight years old, and remarked that it looked more like a toothpick than a cricket bat. I argued that it was 2lbs 8, and had served me well, but I couldn’t help but notice that it looked completely inadequate next to his impressive blade. My mate’s bat had far bigger edges and a middle that was decidedly meatier. Time for a change I thought.
I immediately went out and bought a new chunk of willow. I say ‘chunk’ because this bat is certainly a lot more masculine than my tooth pick. When I saw it in the shop I assumed it was over 3lbs. However, I was surprised to learn it that was 2lb 8 (every bat in the shop was around this weight) and the pick-up was unbelievably light. Game on I thought.
However, I’m now having doubts as to whether the bat will make much difference. I saw a feature on Sky a while back with Nasser Hussain practicing range hitting with Jonny Bairstow. Like me, Nasser was convinced that bat technology was the main reason why today’s players clear the ropes so often.
However, this theory quickly unravelled when Nasser borrowed Jonny’s bat and still couldn’t hit it off the square. Bairstow, on the other hand, was hitting the ball into the stands with regularity. Jonny basically told Nasser that he’d need to hit the gym if he wanted to improve. As there’s about as much chance of me ‘hitting the gym’ as there is of an Australian batsman walking, I was somewhat crestfallen.
What’s interesting, however, is that the ICC – which should know a thing or two about cricket – obviously thinks that bat design is playing a part in today’s mammoth ODI and T20 totals. In fact, they’ve introduced new guidelines for bat manufacturers that come into effect later this year. Hmmm. So who is right, the ICC or Bairstow?
Personally I think they’re probably both right. There’s no doubt that today’s cricketers are much fitter than they used to be. They practice big-hitting more frequently and actually build up the specific muscles necessary to blast the ball 80 metres plus. However, I still think that my new bat is bound to help me hit boundaries more often. After all, it looks a lot meatier.
The truth might be, however, that the only real difference between today’s chunky specimens and the planks I grew up with is that bats are pressed more lightly these days. For example, this eye-opening piece in the Betway Insider claims that the new ICC regulations won’t make a rat’s rump of difference. I tend to trust this opinion because it’s an interview with a master craftsman from Gray-Nicholls. If anyone knows about the ‘ins and outs’ (did you see what I did there?) of modern bat making it’s surely him.
This perspective gives me hope that I won’t have to hit the gym in order to become the IPL’s most coveted biffer … or rather village cricket’s most feared stodgy opener. Because my new bat is pressed more lightly than its dead-as-a-dead-duck predecessor, I can indeed expect it to add some oomph to my game. Perhaps my miss-hit lofted drives will just about clear mid-off’s head this weekend rather than landing in his bread basket? I can only hope.
There’s just one problem though. Although my new manly blade – yes I’m still talking about bats by the way – should help me score faster, it’s probably not going to help my bank balance much. Lightly press bats perform better but apparently they don’t last as long. I wonder how my Mrs will react if I need to spend another 250 quid next summer?