If you want to improve your batting average in 2021, it’s important to get into the practice nets as soon as you can to get your eye back in and your reflexes sharp. But you’ll need your trusty partner at the crease to help you too – no, not the guy at the other end of the wicket – but your bat.
Having the right type of cricket bat to suit your game and your game’s strengths, is crucial to feeling confident at the wicket and comfortable facing whatever a bowling attack has to throw at you. Partners at the crease may come and go, but your bat will always be by your side and it does become your pride and joy.
That’s why it is important when you purchase a new cricket bat that you do some research so you know exactly what you’re buying and how it could help your game. Become knowledgeable about the bat and the specification you are investing in, as it can reap some quick rewards.
Here, we have pulled together a few pointers to help you choose the right cricket bat and we’ve highlighted the main types of bat available to buy on the market.
Will you go English or Kashmir Willow?
Cricket bats might all look the same to the untrained eye, but they are all very different. One of the main things you need to decide on is which type of bat you want and why. Cricket bats can be made of different material and weigh very differently too. They are all manufactured from willow, as this is the most hard-wearing material for the job, but there are two main varieties of cricket bat willow to choose from, English Willow and Kashmir Willow. But which one is best for you and your budget?
English Willow cricket bats
You won’t be surprised to learn that English Willow is grown in England, and whilst many of us despair at the weather conditions we must endure for large parts of the year, they are actually great conditions for growing willow to make cricket bats from.
The wetter conditions in England mean that the willow has a higher moisture content, which contributes to it being the best quality you can find, and a more enduring variation of the material. You will find that most senior club cricketers in the world will use an English Willow cricket bat, but because it is seen to be the premium make and a better-quality willow, the bats do come with a higher price tag.
Your English Willow bat will be given a grade, which will be reflected in the price. Grade 1+ or Grade A is the very best quality of English willow with minimal knots, blemishes, and markings. This grade of willow will typically be used to make the bats of the international cricket stars, but they have become increasingly more available as limited-edition bats that are made for sale to the general public.
The grade of bat then descends in quality from Grade 1, which is still of the highest quality, down to Grade 5, with every bat produced down the grading system exhibiting more discolouration, markings, and irregular grains. Here is a rough indicator to help you find a bat suitable for your needs:
1+: Test match
Grade 1: Professional
Grade 2: Top club
Grade 3: Lower league
Grade 4: Beginner
Grade 5: Beginner
Kashmir Willow cricket bats
Kashmir Willow is grown in India and Pakistan, two countries that enjoy much hotter and dryer conditions. This has an impact on the strength of the willow, meaning that bats created from it are dryer and harder, which affects their durability. The willow is also a bit denser, which makes Kashmir Willow bats heavier. Because they are less resilient and use a lower quality of willow, it does make them a more affordable option and they tend to be produced as low-cost junior bats and low-end adult bats.
Kashmir Willow bats are recommended for beginners or junior players because they do the job without breaking the bank. Once you become a better player, or start taking the game that little more seriously, you can switch to English Willow.
For a more detailed comparison between the two types of willow, check our our article here.
What do the pro’s use?
Some of the best and more expensive cricket bats on sale in the UK are actually used by the big names of cricket.
The New Balance TC 1260 cricket bat is the one of choice for Joe Root and is produced from top quality English willow. It has a pronounced hitting area, thick edges for off-centre shots, and large, sweet spots. It certainly works for Root.
Kookaburra bring us some exceptional batting choices, including the Kahuna Pro Cricket Bat 2021. It is made from Grade 1 unbleached English willow and favoured by players who want to pack a punch in their shots or play with accuracy and elegance.
The life of a cricket bat
However much you choose to spend on a cricket bat, you must remember all of them have a limited life span. Remember, you are trying to wallop a very hard leather ball as far as you can with it, and sometimes your bat will come off second best. They are also made of a natural resource, willow, so the chance of them breaking is higher than if they were produced from ‘man-made’ materials.
There are some things you can do to prepare and preserve the bat for longer, but if you notice any small superficial cracks or small splits, don’t worry about them too much, as they shouldn’t affect the performance of the bat.
Knocking-in and oiling
Once you have purchased your new cricket bat, prepare it for play by ‘knocking-in’. This involves striking up and down the face and front edges of the bat with a special wooden bat mallet to ready it for the pounding it is going to take. This process helps to compress the fibres of the willow to reduce the risk of serious damage and increase its performance.
Oiling the bat helps to maintain the moisture content within it and avoids splits and cracks occurring if it dries out too much. Most new bats will have already been oiled, but you can apply a very thin coat of raw linseed oil too – but don’t over oil, as you could cause the willow to rot.
You can find a more in-depth article about knocking-in a cricket bat here.
Training cricket bats to buy
If you wanted a low-cost cricket bat to develop your batting skills or to use for assisting catching practice, there are several training bats available to purchase too. Training cricket bats generally come in different sizes and widths, with some of them having a shorter handle and smaller blade.
They are a great tool for improving your hand to eye co-ordination, or for practicing and perfecting being able to middle the ball when playing attacking shots, or to defend.
Some training bats that are available include the Gray-Nicolls Cloud Catcher bat, which is made from premium English Willow. Its design, a one had grip, means it is easier for a catch and feed motion when practicing, and the HD foam on the face of the blade lets you can get real height and pace on the ball when completing fielding drills.
Kookaburra also bring us their Premier Fielding practice bat, which is used by many professional coaches. Its unique design with a foam ‘power zone’ means it can generate exceptional power in an effortless motion. It is also lightweight, so easy to use and transport around with you.
Both of these training bats are excellent quality, but they can be picked up for less than £50 and are a real aid in any fielding drill.
Another type of cricket bat you might find within a training set, is one for beginners that is made up of a good quality wood, fibre or moulded plastic. These are generally used for practicing your batting technique when you start out playing the game, or they can be used in Kwik cricket. When you use these bats, you’ll be facing softer balls, such as a tennis ball, but their lightweight design means you can start to build a batting technique. This type of bat doesn’t need any maintenance as they are ready to use.
Gunn & Moore’s Six6 cricket bat is an excellent bat for facing softer balls and they come at a low price, which makes it the perfect beginners bat.