Sachin Tendulkar in his Autobiography ‘Playing it my way’ that even when he was encouraged to move to a lighter bat, he never felt comfortable as his bat swing depended on that weight. So despite several injuries in his 24 year long career he never preferred going in with a lighter bat. In an era where the lighter bats dominate, Sachin is among the few who tend to go the opposite way.  and Chris gayle are renowned for their preferences for the heavier bats. But it was not always so. We will be going though the history  of the cricket bat and batting techniques in this article.

The oldest known cricket bat currently thought to be in existence is displayed in The Kensington Oval. This bat from 1729 resembles a hockey stick more than a modern cricket bat. But the reason lies in the cricketing laws at the time. Back in those days the bowlers bowled their deliveries in an underarm fashion. Since the bowl rolled along the ground the batsmen focussed on the horizontal sweeping motion which was aided a lot by the curved toe design of bats.

In the late 1760’s a change in the cricketing laws allowed the bowlers to loop the ball in the air while they were still bowling underarm. This led to the ball to rise sharply off the ground. The batsmen who used the hockey sticks for sweeping horizontal motions found that the bounce of the balls made their current bats useless. They needed to use more vertical swings and this led to creation of the straight blade bat. John Smith, a player for Hambleton as well as a player is claimed to be the person who altered the design to a straight bat. He is the scorer of cricket’s first century with the modern blade. The bats were still quite heavy at the base and it wasn’t until the 1820’s when round the arm bowling was introduced that the bats began to be closely resemble its modern equivalents.
Back in the 1700’s there wasn’t any cricketing laws dictating the shape or the size of the bats. And with the sport being the Gentleman’s game no one really bothered to do anything about it. That is until the Monster Bat Incident of 1771 where during a match between Chertsey and Hambleton, Chertsey’s Thomas “Daddy” White came out to crease with a bat as wide as the wicket bat. Despite his smart bit of thinking and generally unsportsmanlike behaviour Hambleton still went on to win the match by one run. Post the match Hambleton’s lodged a formal protest which resulted in the change of laws with the maximum width of the cricket bat being fixed at 4.25 inches.
The bats underwent a lot of experimentation in its method of crafting as well. Density is a major factor when selecting the ideal timber for making the bats. If the density is high then the bats would weigh a lot. But if its low the bats would be very brittle and thus prone to breaking. After a lot of experimentation, the English Willow has been the choice of wood since the 1800’s. The reason for this being its lightness and its resilience. The bats still weighed a lot, up to five pounds. This was because the bats were made from the heartwood of the willow. The heartwood also made bats darker than their modern equivalents. In 1890, CC Bussey created a new bat from the sapwood of the tree. This made the bats lighter and as well as whiter than their counterparts.
This change in weight also resulted in the change in the technique of the batsmen. The lighter bats made it possible to manoeuvre it far more easily. The batsmen thus began to modify their techniques from the power based on the heavier bats to touch and timing. The late cuts which depended more of timing rather than the power is an example of one such shot that was adopted. The design of the cricket bats hasn’t undergone any remarkable changes since then. With advancements in technology, the Batmakers have continuously refined their arts over the years. And Batsmen have consistently adapted to these evolutions helping the sport achieve greater heights.
How to Choose a Good Cricket Bat
Nowadays you can buy bats made from the English as well as the Kashmir willow. English willow is generally considered to be the better of the two. An easy way to identify the two would be through the colour. The English willow is lighter and has a whiter colour than the Kashmir Willow which has a reddish brown colour in part of it being grown in a dryer climate. It is accepted that the English willow is both lighter and has more grains than its Kashmiri counterpart. It is generally considered that the Kashmir is heavier than the English willow. As discussed earlier lighter bats are better for batsmen who rely on timing and heavier bats are preferred for the power hitters. Of course there are exceptions but in general, going by the above rule the English Willow is ideal for good batsmen while the Kashmir willow is better for the tail enders.
Size is another important criteria one should keep in mind. The Bats comes in various sizes. This is mostly dependent of the age of the player. One can use to chart below to determine the right bat for themselves.

Grains are the most important criteria when it comes to buying a bat. A lot of buyers are not aware of this and can be easily conned out of their hard earned money. Now grains are the lines which can be seen on the surface of the bat. These represent the age of the willow tree. It is generally considered that anywhere between 6 to 12 grains is a good quality bat. If it is less than 6 then the bats would take longer to reach optimal performance and if its more than 12 the bats are too hard and would be prone to breaking faster.
So the next time you plan to buy a Bat from your local stores, be sure to keep the following things in mind.

Written by Bajith Sasidharan

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