Although a cricket leather ball has undergone minuscule changes over the history of cricket, the bat, on the other hand, has been transformed from a hockey shaped thing to a giant edged bats that we see today.
A lot of research went into creating the bats as we see them today. This, however, has made it that much more difficult to purchase a suitable bat that will fit the purpose. Don’t worry. This is exactly where this article will help.
While buying an English Willow bat the main parameters to look for are the grade of the bat, width of grains, suitable weight, and thickness of the edges. Your age and height need to be taken into consideration. The length and shape of the handle and the bat profile are also important. Additionally, your role in the team, style of batting, and budget would help make a better decision.
So how’s a Kashmir Willow bat different from the English Willow bat? Is English Willow better? What are bat grains are why are they important while choosing a bat? What are the good brands to buy English Willow bats?
We will get to all these questions one by one, but first, let’s begin with understanding the difference between Kashmir and English Willow.
Kashmir Willow vs. English Willow Cricket Bats
English and Kashmir Willow bats are the most prominent in World Cricket today. Numerous factors, ranging from color to grains, make the English Willow bats superior to Kashmir Willow bats. Let’s discuss them briefly before diving deep into the factors to be considered while buying an English Willow bat.
Kashmir Willow is radish in nature and the bats have lots of blemishes on the surface. The English Willow bats, on the other hand, are lighter and have no blemishes.
The Kashmir Willow has very few grains, and sometimes they are not clearly visible on the bat surface. English Willow has the best grain quality. You can see a very straight and clear profile of the grains on the face of an English willow bat.
3. Moisture level & durability
Grown in English conditions, moisture in English Willow is as compared to Kashmir Willow. Thus, the English willow bats last longer than the bats made with slightly drier Kashmir willow.
4. Compressibility, Shape, and Ping
You can always feel better ping with English Willow bat since the compressibility is more compared to the Kashmir Willow. With higher compressibility, better shapes can be given to the English willow bats.
Kashmir Willow is heavier, and bat produced with Kashmir willow would weigh around 1200 to 1280 grams. The English Willow is very lightweight – ranging between 1150 to 1250 grams. Thus, you can have a thicker toe, edges, and spine in English willow bats without worrying about the increased weight.
Kashmir Willow is much cheaper. In many cases, English willow cricket bats are priced more than double the Kashmir Willow with a similar profile.
With the basics out of the way, let’s take a look at the important things you should know before buying an English Willow bat.
Things you Should Do While Buying an English Willow
As we have seen, although a bit costlier, English Willow bats are superior to Kashmir Willow bats. If you are planning to buy an English willow bat, here are 12 key points for you. I am sure, these points will help you make a prudent choice.
1. Choosing the Correct Grade
There are four unique grades of the English Willow, and each grade has specific characteristics as described below. Pick the one that suits your requirement the most.
Grade 1 is considered as the best grade. It is the most expensive willow and the one that is used by professional players. It has at least six perfect straight lines (grains) and shows no blemishes on the blade of the bat.
Grade 2 is an excellent quality timber. It has at least four or five straight lines (grains), with some blemishes and marks on the blade of the bat.
If you want the best value for money, perhaps this is your grade. Grade 3 is the most extensively used one. It has similar grains compared to grade 2, but the grains are not as straight. You can see some blemishes or butterfly marks on its face. But all these factors do not affect playability as much.
It has up to 4 grains, with more butterfly stains and blemishes on the face of the bat. Sometimes, it is bleached to cover up bad spots or to make them look better. This is the least expensive willow
The image above shows how the blemishes on a cricket bat can be covered by bleaching ( before and after shot of a bleached cricket bat – Image credit)
2. Heavy or Lightweight Cricket Bat?
Generally, the weight of a cricket bat ranges between 0.94 Kg to 1.4 Kg. So, what is the ideal cricket bat weight for you? The answer is simple, the weight depends entirely on you.
The weight with which you feel most comfortable is right for you. The heavier bats are more powerful but they may impact the response time. With lighter bats, your response is quicker but you have to rely more on timing the ball perfectly.
Even though the great batsman Sachin Tendulkar was advised to play with the lighter cricket bat by the specialists, however, he never felt comfortable with the lighter bat. It could be a different case with you, as too much weight could hamper your game while going for a certain kind of shots.
Thus, go for the weight that suits your batting style.
3. Check the Balance and the Feel
When you hold the bat, the balance and feel should be right. If the weight of the bat is well distributed at the center, the balance and the feel will be just fine.
Proper balance can empower the player with precise shot timings. Without the right balance, some shots could go wrong. Such minute factors separate a great batsman from a good one.
Top-class players care very much about the balance and feel of their bat. Rahul Dravid used to recognize even a slight difference in his bat’s weight and overall balance.
In short, the bat should feel as if it is the natural extension of the arm.
4. Choose between Narrow and Wide Grains
We talked about the grade and the grains in the preceding topics. You must now know about the grains and their kinds. Grains are vertical lines appearing on the face of the bat, and it indicates the age of the tree. There are two kinds of grains – narrow (or tight) grains, and wide grains.
Narrow Grains (also known as Tight Grains)
Most professional players want to have tight grain bats. Such bats don’t need much knocking-ins. The wood with higher density naturally is heavier and brittle.
A bat with wider grains is made from the tree which grew quickly and hence has it has fewer and wider grains. Compared to narrow grains, it is lighter and needs more knocking in and oiling time, but it lasts a bit longer.
So, as per your need, choose between narrow grains bat – that has more grains, is heavier, strong, and brittle, and wide grains bat – which is lightweight, long-lasting but needs more work before being used for playing.
5. Choose the Optimum Thickness of the Edge
A cricket bat’s edge increases from the shoulders point and peaks at the sweet spot. Generally, professional players prefer thick edges as they give an additional punch. But if you are a casual player, a thoroughly pressed bat is recommended as thick edges can break easily unlike the properly pressed bat.
6. Select the Perfect Bat Size for You!
The height and age of each player are different and hence the size of the bat should also be chosen accordingly. The below table can help you with the selection of the right sized bat as per your height and age.
|Age Of Player (Years)||Height of Player (Feet)||Bat Size||Bat Length (Inches)||Bat Width (Inches)|
|4 – 5||Up to 4’ 3”||1||25 ¾”||3 ½”|
|6 – 7||4’ 3” to 4’ 6”||2||27 ¾”||3 ½”|
|8||4’6” to 4’9”||3||28 ¾”||3 ¾”|
|9 – 11||4’9” to 4’11”||4||29 ¾”||3 ¾”|
|10 – 12||4’11” to 5’2”||5||30 ¾”||4”|
|11 – 13||5’2” to 5’6”||6||31 ¾”||4”|
|12 – 14||5’6” to 5’9”||Harrow||32 ¾”||4 1/6”|
|15 and above||5’9” to 6’2”||Full SH||33 ¾”||4 ¼”|
|15 and above||6’2” and above||Full SH||34 ¾”||4 ¾”|
7. Choose the Correct Bat Handle Length
If you are tall, you can go for a longer handle bat so that you don’t have to bend much. For shorter players, a short-length handle is preferred. The total length of the bat handle is approximately 33 to 35 inches.
8. Check the Shape of the Bat
There are two different shapes of handles available as mentioned below. Go for the right shape of the handle you need based on their benefits and your batting stance and style.
The oval handle twists less on impact, therefore less energy is lost as you play the shot. In a way, it helps in the growth of a top hand dominant technique.
It enables the bottom hand to come into play easily for lofted shots. As it allows the batsman to roll the bat easily, players that prefer horizontal bat shots incline towards round handle bats.
9. Determine the Correct Bat Profile for You
The bat profiles include the overall shape, bow, and sweet spots which are the decisive factors in defining your game. Go through the following bat profiles and choose the one which suits your style.
a. Classic Profile
The Classic Profile bat has a traditional shape with a long spine, providing you a long-hitting zone. If you love to hit the ball through the gaps in the fields, go for the classic profile bat.
b. High Profile with Big middle Bow
The High Profile bat comes with a high sweet spot and a huge bow in the middle. It is considered as an ideal profile for a top-order batsman. It is also perfect for the backfoot players.
c. Middle Profile
It has a middle to low sweet spot and a big swell towards the bottom. If you are a middle-order batsman, this profile could be the best for you.
d. Low Profile
The Low Profile bat has a short bow forming a low sweet spot. The low-profile bat is ideal for the all-rounders playing at the lower or the middle order.
e. Extended Profile
It is the extended version of the classic profile. The long edges and short spine provide a wider sweet spot to hit the ball. It is perfect for the front foot batsman.
f. Special Profile
The special profile has a maximum concentration at the middle to the low portion of the bat. Its unique weight distribution gives a very strong hitting zone and it’s ideal for top-order batsmen.
g. Mega profile
It has a large and powerful knocking zone. Its shape and weight distribution help generating a great amount of power in the shots, making it best suited for destructive players like David Warner.
The ultra-profile bat has a flat-front face and big raised edges. It is exclusively made for the power hitters as the maximum wood is in its sweet spot zone. Generally, it comes with an oval cane handle.
i. Bow Profile
It has thick edges, equal balance distribution, and a low sweet spot. If you love to play aerial shots, bow profile will surely suit you, as it has an extended sweet spot.
10. Get Your Cricket Bat Toe Protected
The toe of the cricket bat remains in contact with the ground all the time. Also, the toe faces friction with the ground regularly. Most of the batsman knocks the bat multiple times before the ball is delivered. It is the toe that faces the friction when the batsman drags the bat into the crease while taking some quick and risky runs.
While most cricket bats come with toe protection, some bats don’t. For the good health of the bat and its toe, the bat with the toe cover is recommended to avoid the damages at bottom of the bat. It also protects the bat from the moisture.
11. Oil and Knock-in Your Cricket Bat
The oiling and knocking a bat help make the bat less vulnerable to breakages and harm due to impact. Oiling helps in keeping the moisture in the bat whereas knocking helps in keeping the grains and fibers at the face, the toe, and edges more compacted and reinforced.
If you are not well-versed with the process, we wrote a detailed article with a step-by-step guide to help you with knocking-in a cricket bat. Do give that article a read –
It is a time-consuming process though. Some bats are sold ready-knocked too and are slightly priced higher. If you don’t have time and want a ready-to-use bat, go for the ready-knocked bats.
Tip 12: English Willow bat brands and price range
Some of the famous English Willow cricket bat brands are Kookaburra, Spartan, SS, SG, Grey-Nicolls, GM, New Balance to name a few. The price ranges from very low – around INR 3000 – to as high as INR 60000.
There are certain advantages of going for expensive bats as they have better wood, grain quality, grade, finishing, better weight distribution, and they last longer. You can’t expect a grade 1 bat to perform and age like a grade 4 bat.
General advice would be to start with a moderate range bat and improvise as you go along in your career. Do not directly jump to a costly bat before properly understanding how to use it. It is advisable to check the user’s ratings on various online shopping sites to know the feedback about the variant you plan to buy.
I’m sure you wouldn’t have thought that so many parameters would come into the picture while selecting a simple-looking cricket instrument such as a Bat.
Do not get overwhelmed by the plethora of technicalities involved. If you are a professional, chances are that you already know the right fit. In that case, the above knowledge will help you get closer to the perfect fit. If you are a beginner, this knowledge will help you make a more informed choice at the initial stages itself.
The most important thing to remember is that the hands of the person holding the bat are more important than the bat itself. Getting a perfect bat will definitely help you perform better but it is not going to make up for a lack of skills.
So work on your skills, understand your style and role in the team, and use this extensive knowledge to select a more suitable bat that will enhance your performance.