A few months ago, I decided it was finally time to retire my old Kookaburra cricket bat. It had served me well but it was a slightly older make of bat and I was getting a little tired of having to run twos and threes. You see, I’m all about conserving energy, preserving
flab batting muscle and scoring quickly.
So here’s how I went about choosing a new bat.
- Price range: It is important to identify your budget early on because cricket bats are expensive. For those of us who don’t have bat sponsorship contracts, a good cricket bat is a serious investment – expect to spend anywhere between £100 to £400. I decided early on that my budget was in the middle of the range, i.e., no more than £200.
- Grade of Willow: The price of a bat depends mainly on the willow. Cricket bats are made of English willow and Kashmir willow – while there is plenty of writing about the number/direction of grains and the science of pressing bats, I’ve found that the softer the willow, the better the bat and the shorter its life. Kashmir willow is harder than English willow so a Kashmir willow bat might last long but would not give you too much value for your shots. Amongst English willow, there are various grades- Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3 and so on- in descending order of expense. The higher the grade of willow, the better “ping” you should get off the bat. However, you might find that an expensive Grade 1 English willow bat breaking quicker than a Grade 3 English willow bat. This apparently happens because the better grades of willow are from older trees with more grains (each grain being a year in the willow tree’s life) and are softer. The experts surely know more about these things so make sure you ask your batmaker for his views. If, like me, you play the occasional game of club cricket, you should be well served by a Grade 3 English willow bat.
- Balance: Perhaps the most important part of choosing a cricket bat is its feel and balance. This really depends on what you are used to and where you bat. A top order batsman would probably want a light bat with an even distribution of wood to cater for drives as well as horizontal bat shots against the quicks. A middle or lower order batsman is more likely to play more spin so would probably use a heavier bat with more wood at the bottom. Having grown up in India with SS bats, I bought an SS Ton a few years ago – you know one of those with the massive edges. The bat was probably weighed 2 lb 12 oz and felt great in the shop so I lugged it all the way from Delhi to the UK. Playing with it, however, was a chore – I could barely lift it and manoeuvring the ball into the gaps was a nightmare! So this time I decided to go with a light bat more suitable to my style of play – 2 lb 7 oz. After all, Bradman used a bat which was 2lb 4 oz! At the end of the day, a bat must work for its owner.
Having decided my budget, type of willow and ideal weight of my bat, I went to a few shops to check some bats out. I started with It’s Just Cricket which is right next to the Oval Cricket Ground. A friend and I spent all morning there looking at nearly every bat they had in the store. It was a terrific selection of bats from all the good brands, but I found that most of the nice ones were just a little too heavy and perhaps slightly outside my price range. Definitely worth a visit though!
A random Twitter follow led me to B3 Cricket, which turned out to be one of the newer kids on the bat-making block. Having never played before with one of their bats, I decided that perhaps a customised bat was a bit too expensive and checked out their range of off-the-shelf bats. After plenty of deliberation, I finally settled on the DB1, which seemed to tick all the boxes.
Here is a picture of the good-looking beast!
This bat weighs in at exactly 2lb 7oz and picks up very nicely. There is still a lot of wood in the middle and B3 Cricket have achieved this is by taking a chunks off the top of the bat, giving it the thinnest shoulders I have ever seen on a cricket bat. The sweet spot on the DB1 is right in the middle of the bat making it good for both front foot and back foot play. B3 Cricket also does the DB2 which a high sweet spot for predominantly back foot players and the DB3 with a lower sweet spot for front foot players so there is something for everyone.
This DB1 is the basic grade 3 willow bat for £150. B3 Cricket also knocked the bat in and fitted it with a scuff sheet (for £20) and a toe guard (£5), which with delivery (£7.50) brought the total price to £182.50 – well within my £200 budget. Delivery was quick and within 5 days I was thrilled to get my hands on my new cricket bat!
If you choose a customised or bespoke B3 Cricket bat, you can change the willow type, the degree of scooping and the way the weight is distributed. Probably a bit complicated for me. Also, although I did not go down to the B3 factory to pick the bat out myself, I was comfortable with the bat being delivered to me because B3 will accept returns if you don’t enjoy the feel of the bat. Obviously, the returns policy only works if you have not used the bat!
Speaking of using the bat, I was doubtful after the first couple of games as it didn’t really seem like the bat had much “ping”. Thankfully, this was simply a function of the user (me) being rusty after the winter and two games into the season, I heard the sweet sound the centre made. Moral of the story – please give your new bat a bit of time before discarding it. I have even managed a few to smack a few sixes with it – the last maximum with my old bat was three years ago!
Overall, I am quite happy with my purchase. A solid, durable, value for money bat which should hopefully bring me some runs over the next few seasons.
Did you just buy a new bat? Do you have a favourite brand? Do you have any tips on choosing cricket bats? Let us know in the comments.