Cricket Bats for Beginners.

Published: 03rd March 2009
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Where do you start when choosing a cricket bat for the first time? If you have never had to purchase a cricket bat before it is a task which could be a little daunting. For starters, there are funny sizes starting with numbers and then changing to names and handle lengths. Then there is the type and grade of willow to consider and finally the shapes of the bats.

So first things first, work out which size of bat you need. If you are an adult and are less than six foot tall then you will probably want a short handle bat, which is the standard adult size cricket bat. If you are six foot tall or over then you will probably be more comfortable with a long handle bat. This as the name suggests just has a slightly longer handle so that the player doesn't need to stoop so much to hold the cricket bat and play shots. Some manufacturers offer Long Blade models instead, where the handle is the same as a normal sized adult cricket bat but the blade itself is slightly longer than on a standard cricket bat, making it the same size as a long handle bat in total.

If you are buying a cricket bat for a child then the sizes start at zero and go up to size six and then onto Harrow. There is also an Academy size which comes in between the harrow and senior short handle cricket bats. The guideline heights and sizes for junior cricket bats are as follows, but other things should also be taken in to consideration when choosing the correct cricket bat which shall be discussed later on.

For players up to 120cm tall bat size 0 is recommended; 120-129cm size 1; 129-137cm size 2; 137-144cm size 3; 144-150cm size 4; 150-157cm size 5; 157-163cm size 6; 163-168cm size Harrow; 168-175cm size academy and 175cm and over full size, short handle cricket bat.

With this guide to start off the process it is now important to check that the player can comfortably lift the cricket bat in the correct fashion. The best way to do this is to go to a well known specialist cricket equipment retailer and try lifting the bats and get their staff to advise you. The player who is to use the cricket bat should stand and hold the bat as if he or she is waiting to play a shot on the crease and lift the cricket bat up in the back lift position as if about to make a shot. There should be no discomfort or strain for the player when lifting the cricket bat in this position. A bat that is too heavy will force the player to alter their grip when trying to lift the cricket bat when playing a shot, bringing the bat down across the line of the ball. A cricket bat that is too long will prevent correct pick up as the handle will get in the way. Both of these problems will affect the player's ability to properly develop their technical skills and play the game to their best ability.

If there isn't a specialist cricket equipment supplier near you then online cricket equipment stores are also ideal. First try lifting some of the other players' cricket bats at your club to help you get an idea of the size you need and the manufacturer and model which feels most comfortable. Do your homework to make sure you have the correct size cricket bat. It may even be worth ordering the two sizes you think you may need, or ordering two different makes of cricket bat in the same size and trying to lift them at home to see which is most comfortable. Online and mail order specialists are happy to take back unsuitable items providing they are in the same condition they were sent out to you in and within a reasonable amount of time. You will usually incur the cost of returning such an item but it often works out quicker and cheaper to do this than keep trying various different shops locally.

Once you are happy that you have the correct size of cricket bat then you can consider the type and grade of willow you want. The two main distinctions are English willow and Kashmir willow. English willow is the better quality and will look and perform better than Kashmir willow. This said, Kashmir willow is an excellent value choice for players new to the game as it will still perform well and will last well as the player gets used to the game of cricket and builds skill and confidence. Kashmir willow is considerably cheaper than English willow, so ideal if you are worried that a child may out- grow their cricket bat quickly or that a new player may decide that cricket isn't the sport for them. The main thing that a player may notice is more surface cracks on the blade of the cricket bat. These will occur on all cricket bats, including English willow bats and are nothing to worry about. Proper preparation and ongoing care of the cricket bat will ensure that it still plays well even with these minor blemishes. Good suppliers will give full instructions and advice leaflets with a new bat to ensure that the player gets the best from it.

If the player has been playing cricket for some time and they are at a stage where they want to get improved performance from their equipment then English willow will be the better choice. There are various grades of willow which start at Grade one, the wood with the most even grain and no blemishes or discolouration and gradually they move down the scale as the wood has slight dark markings or less even grain spacing. Unbleached willow is also favourable, with bleached willow being used on cheaper models to give them a better appearance. The grade of the willow is directly proportionate to the price, so the most expensive cricket bats really are made from the best quality willow which is very limited in it's availability. These bats are often referred to as Limited Edition or signature models and are often saved for custom made to order bats. This quality of willow is what is used by professional county and international cricketers and is therefore probably not essential for most players. However, most will want to have the best that they can afford to try and give them an edge on the field.

Finally there are the various different bat shapes that are available. Some cricket bats are designed with a specific type of cricket player in mind e.g. players that make big hits and those who prefer to make their score from single runs. This is something which will come down to personal preference, comfort and playing style. Lifting the cricket bats in a specialist store or trying those of friends will help in making a choice. Bowed blades can help with control when playing a shot and thicker edges and blades can give more power for big hitting. The sweet spot is the area which is ideal for striking the ball. Reading the descriptions and manufacturer profiles for bat ranges will give information about what the cricket bat is designed to do and the type of cricketer that will benefit from that specific type of bat.

The most important thing of all to remember about cricket bats though is to take proper care of them and then they should last and last. Cricket bats are made from willow which is a natural material and as with most wooden items a certain amount of continued care is necessary. Always make sure that the cricket bat is properly knocked in. This means that the blade is prepared for the punishment of a cricket ball hitting against it by further compressing the wood using a specialist cricket bat mallet or an old cricket ball inside a sock. The bat should be gently tapped all over the face and edges with the mallet repeatedly. It is a long process and to help many manufacturers now offer pre-prepared or pre-knocked in models, most recommend that additional knocking in should also be carried out on these bats to get them ready to play with. The pre-preparation significantly reduces the amount of time this needs to be done for but does not eliminate the need totally. Even readyplay models should be checked and knocked in more if necessary. Many specialist cricket retailers and online suppliers will also offer knocking in services on cricket bats and if you are unsure they will advise you if the cricket bat is ready to use or not. Never use a new cricket bat against a new cricket ball, start it off against an old cricket ball in the nets and then gradually move it to the field and against newer cricket balls.

Oiling with specialist linseed oil is also important to prevent the cricket bat drying out and cracking. Oil should not be over applied but should be gently rubbed over the face, toe and edges in a horizontal position. Oil should be reapplied as necessary. Cricket bat facing sheets and edging tape are a great way to protect and prolong the life of the cricket bat blade and take away the need for oiling, saving some time. Some cricket bats come with these already fitted and are known as non-oil bats otherwise they are known as natural.

Almost all cricket bats which are sent back as faulty are actually damaged because they have not been prepared and looked after properly. The repair of this damage will be the responsibility of the owner, not the supplier or the manufacturer. A true fault would arise from weak willow which would not be evident until playing with it and would give almost immediately even if fully knocked in. Faults are very rare, but occasionally occur in natural products. Any damage which occurs during use would be looked at individually and referred to the manufacturer for their opinion if necessary.

The last thing which it is important to remember is that all cricket bats will suffer from small surface cracks over a period of time and this is normal for all cricket bats of any make. The cracks are not a problem and do not affect the performance of the bat. Gentle sanding and re-oiling can remove these cracks and many specialist cricket retailers and suppliers will offer a cricket bat reconditioning service if this becomes necessary.

Make sure that you choose a long standing specialist cricket retailer or online store when choosing your bat and ask for the appropriate guidance if you need it. Information on cricket bat care should be given with the purchase, but if it isn't then ask for some. Enjoy your cricket bat!

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