Big Bat Myth

Are Cricket Bats the problem?

Bigger is Better!

There’s been a lot of talk about the size of cricket bats in recent years. You hear the commentators on TV highlight how big the cricket bats are compared to what they played with and you’ll often hear the term “Modern Bats”. The size of Cricket Bats has become such a talking point that the MCC have stepped in. Yes, the internationally recognised organisation that safeguards the Laws, Traditions and Spirit of the game has exercised its position as the foremost expert on all things Cricket to attempt to address the growing concerns about the possible imbalance between the Big Wooden Stick and the Little Leather Ball.

The purpose of this article is not to dismiss the effort of the MCC to maintain the balance of Cricket, nor to undermine the research conducted by Imperial College London. Their research adds to the debate by progressing the investigation of this subject and this study was at least available to read via an article on Cricinfo by Alex Winter. I hope to illustrate that the performance of Cricket Bats isn’t directly related to size or volume, but instead relies upon many factors and that scientific research into Cricket Bat Performance is unnecessary. You may wonder why I’ve chosen to scrutinise it now and not when it was released in May 2014. Well at that point we weren’t on the eve of a World Cup, someone hadn’t just hit the fastest ODI century and we didn’t have the ICC and TV commentators preaching from the Pulpit about what’s making the game imbalanced.

The worry has reached fever pitch, and the only panacea was a “scientific study“. I say that with tongue firmly in cheek, having been underwhelmed by the study and overwhelmed by the assumptions made within it. The findings were less than ground breaking and it’s frustrating to see that the MCC has gone down this statistical route. This isn’t to say that nothing can be garnered from this article as they do acknowledge factors previous research has not. The good thing is that the MCC has, based on the findings of this study, made the right choice to refrain from making changes to the laws surrounding bat size. Unfortunately it’s for the wrong reasons. Whilst I appreciate that this may be an abridged version of the study to make it more palatable. It doesn’t help the MCC or ICC make informed decisions about the future of the game.

The study was commissioned to “address the simple question: ‘Have the changes in bat design over the years resulted in a performance advantage?'”. Let’s start by highlighting that the age of the bats ranges from 1905 to 2013, that’s a whopping 108 years. The issue with this is that one of the qualities that makes Willow so suitable for Cricket Bats is its elasticity or spring. Part of this particular quality is down to the structure of Willow but much of it is down to the moisture content. A new tree branch will bend and flex, yet the same branch would snap once dry.

Although drying Willow to a certain moisture content makes it useable for Cricket Bats, there is a balance between too wet and too dry. Not taking this into consideration when investigating the “performance advantages of Cricket Bat design” is beyond bizarre. Just acknowledging it would have been nice to see. But this is what you get when you don’t ask people who are submerged in Willow shavings on a daily basis. The oldest bat has had 108 years to lose moisture, not much I might add, but it will have been enough to make an admittedly subjective yet discernible difference in the performance. Any bat that’s been used and then sat around for more than a century will have seen a drop in performance, loss of the natural moisture (and therefore mass) and the inevitable degradation during use.

That Little Leather Ball is hard you know.

During this extensive period, the changes in drying techniques will have had some small impact on performance, arguably positive or negative. However, I don’t think it would have helped the MCC to resolve their original question.

Considering that the size of Cricket Bats was the original issue that drove them to commission this piece of research, it seems confusing that they haven’t asked for the study to address volume specifically. Instead the study changes volume, mass, bat length and shape all at the same time and then tried to compare the results. Well if you change that many variables at once you’re not going address any question. In reality, the study investigates the influence of Modern Bat Design and states “Bat design can have a significant effect on performance”. True, but certainly no revelation. I would argue that the MCC has done a good job of curtailing performance enhancing advancements in Cricket Bat Manufacturing, but not always to the benefit of the Craft of Bat Making.

If they’d used 5 bats with same mass, length and design, yet changed the volume then this would have been more useful in addressing the MCC’s concerns about size. However had they done this, it could be easily posited that the variation in performance was merely the result of natural variation in the material.

In addition to this, their own question “have the changes in bat design over the years resulted in a performance advantage?”, hasn’t been answered. The Cricket Bats used in the experiment are specifically not similar in design, however making their other qualities consistent would have made sense. The Independent Variable is the Input, the Dependent Variable is the Output. The Dependent Variable should be “Performance” given that it is what they wish to measure against changes in design. The experimenter is measuring this Performance of each different Cricket Bat Design, therefore the Independent Variable should be Cricket Bat Design as they are trying to establish whether it is influencing their Dependent Variable. Sadly the study makes Mass, Length, Volume, Handle construction, Drying Techniques and Moisture Content the Independent Variable as they all change alongside the Bat’s Design. This implies that the experimenter believes or is under the impression that these other factors don’t influence performance. Only someone who doesn’t understand how Performance in a Cricket Bat is produced or created would make this mistake. Though it’s not the mistake of Imperial College London, it’s the mistake of the MCC for not engaging with the right people first. Why didn’t they ask Bat Makers?

This is why I was concerned about the MCC having decided to not make changes based on this information. Not because I don’t agree with their stance, but because the information they’ve been provided implies there’s a correlation and not causation. The number of sixes being hit may be correlated with increased size of Cricket Bats, but it’s also correlated with increased player fitness, fielding restrictions, bowler restrictions, “Free Hits”, etc. The MCC shouldn’t have bothered commissioning the research and instead just asked someone who makes Cricket bats to give their opinion.

One noteworthy assumption made by this study is that “the materials are equivalent (same type of wood, cane, rubber, twine and adhesives) and that the manufacturing processes are equivalent, or at least do confer any performance benefit if altered. Therefore, the other parameters would need to be quantified.”

I appreciate that for the study to be possible some material assumptions need to be made. There is no way to proceed without making them. This is why they’ve only used one manufacturer, so that they can assume these factors have indeed remained constant. Unfortunately they haven’t and never will. The issue raised here is that we’re comparing Apples and Oranges and coming up with Bananas. There would be variation found in the results for 5 Cricket Bats of the same shape, weight, length and design. How could this be if the material is quantifiably predictable?

As the study acknowledges, “Previous work has clearly shown that the following parameters can all influence bat performance: materials, manufacturing processes, weight distribution, and blade design.” Sadly those pieces of research have made the same mistake this one has, in that they’ve assumed the materials utilised in Cricket Bats have the consistency, and therefore predictability, that would facilitate this kind of quantitative research. It’s incredibly tough to design a study that would account for all the variables. This generalisation about the materials implies there’s a specific design of Cricket Bat that will yield the greatest performance. In theory there may well be a “Perfect Design”, but that doesn’t mean that design will suit every player out there and that this design would suit every cleft of Willow. Thankfully they do highlight that the different designs of Cricket bat “require a slightly different technique to optimise their performance”.

Their results on “Torsional Stability” (a fancy way of saying resistance to twisting) make for interesting reading. The thickest edge doesn’t produce the greatest return. In fact the benefits have dropped off, implying the extra thickness has become unnecessary or possibly detrimental . I had suggested we’d reached this point on here in September ’13 but this question still remains…

Across the face, At what point does the edge start or stop? In other words, at what point on the bat do we start to consider it as the middle and no longer the edge?

The amount of weight actually put into the edge of the bat by making them 20mm thicker, is relatively small given the overall mass of a Cricket Bat. We’ve got to acknowledge that the increase in Volume doesn’t mean an increase in Mass. Therefore to assume the increase of Volume means an increase in Power (Performance) is against the Laws of Physics. I’ll often reduce the edge size by a few millimetres if I need more weight out the bat, but from experience I know I’m not going to get a lot. A couple of ounces if I’m really lucky.

Worth noting is how the results follow similar curves and those curves are tightly packed. If modern design was producing significantly more powerful Cricket Bats then I would’ve hoped to have seen a broader spread of data. There are differences between the bats, but they appear to be restricted to supporting the idea that modern bats may have only slightly larger sweetspots rather than distinctly more potent ones. Whilst this may be an advantage I feel it’s dismissive of the talents of the batsman. They practise hitting sixes, they purposefully hit boundaries in unorthodox places. It’s not luck, it’s by design.

My previous remark (para. 3) about the statistical route being frustrating is part of the overarching gripe I have with the lack of willingness we seem to have with trusting what our gut says. Especially when it comes to Administrative Cricket decisions. Commissioning research and citing statistics seems to prolong the process of confirming what we already knew, whilst conveniently providing a crutch upon which to lean.

Despite my distaste for a Quantitative approach to this question, I admire the MCC and Imperial College London for at least trying to provide some evidence for their concerns. They’ve done what most don’t in exercising some objectivity.

The Pressing of Cricket Bats

Arguably the most important factor. Without it, you’d have a soft spongy material that would dent easily and offer little performance. A process that’s overlooked consistently. I’ll let you in on a secret, Pressing has got better. Bats are pressed for better performance sooner. Their feel is better. Consumer expectations have changed and this is down to the type of Cricket they’ve been exposed to. The Australian Test domination was partly due to their ability to score quickly and extract results from games that would have otherwise meandered to a Draw. The prevalence of T20 Cricket and the celebration by the media (especially on TV commentary) of the big hits is inevitably going to influence the average Cricketer. For the ICC to give us T20 Cricket and not acknowledge that the demands of this format would influence other formats, as though they’re completely isolated entities, is somewhat naive.

Drying

Whilst I mentioned earlier that I didn’t think a change in drying techniques would have helped the MCC answer their question. I do feel it has influenced what’s possible with a cleft of Willow and facilitated some of the changes in design we now see. Personally I am not a fan of Kiln drying, however I acknowledge that it’s had an impact on the industry and made larger Cricket Bats for a particular Mass more achievable. Though it is not without its downfalls.

Who makes the claim must prove it.

There’s a problem that is cruelly perpetual when it comes to Cricket Bats. One that rears its head when you attempt to apply the rigours of scientific research to an incredibly subjective world.

The lack of falsifiability. If you make a claim about increased performance of a Cricket Bat you need to provide evidence to support that theory. The challenge is that proving these theories is tough and disproving them is even more challenging. Without sufficient evidence to refute it, the myth propagates.

Some claims are so obviously false that a scientific study isn’t needed, they inherently stink of BS. However there are those that sound so plausible, possibly even scientific, that squirm their way through the gaps in critical thought and permeate Cricket. The Big Bat myth is one of those. It has never been proven as fact and therefore can still only be considered opinion or perception. Prove the theory correct, don’t ask everyone else to prove it’s false. Thankfully the MCC and Imperial College London attempted to do this and do it privately. The ICC made the mistake of making their concern public at the worst possible time.

The danger of accepting opinion as fact

Having said this, I would like to draw attention to other sources that haven’t helped the myth. I have to admire Sanjay Manjrekar for managing to write an entire article without providing any suitably convincing or compelling evidence to support his argument. He opens the article with a video, asking how many times you hear commentators say “That’s a Big Shot, that’s landed on the roof of the stadium”. A lot, but that’s the commentators talking it up. I’d ask, how many times do you hear commentators say “That’s Massive!” and the ball just creeps over the boundary? I bet considerably more times than the ball lands on the roof. TV commentators add to this size myth with commentary like this by persuading people that there are more Big Hits than there actually are.

He talks about how the old bats twisted in your hands and modern bats provide more power to the ball when hit on the edge. Unfortunately there are photos illustrating that modern bats still twist in the batsman’s hands…

David Warner ICC tweet Jan 16

Cricket Aus tweet Jan 16

It’s safe to say that energy is still lost through twisting. However, without sufficient evidence to prove that Modern Bats are providing a significant performance increase, the kind of which Manjrekar claims to exist, I will continue to doubt this theory.

He states the extra volume in the edge of a Modern Bat makes the ball go further. If the density of a material is fixed, then adding Volume will add Mass. When it come to Cricket Bats, there seems to be a belief that we can defy the basic laws of Physics. As though somehow adding Volume will add all the benefits of added Mass but without the pesky quality of making it feel heavier.

He confuses the qualities of added Volume with added Mass. The truth is you’re getting bigger bats for the same mass, but that doesn’t confer an improvement in performance. It hasn’t been proven by those claiming it’s true and it’s not everyone else’s job to prove it’s false. Sadly it’s stood up simply because of its lack of falsifiability.

His comparison between the bats from the past that were bigger because of their mass, with the modern bats that are a similar size for less mass is crude. It implies volume is what gives a Cricket Bat power rather than the mass, or the many other qualities. Mass is potential energy and the batsman realises this by swinging it. The explanations used to support this myth reference scientific terms yet don’t apply the basic scientific laws that underpin Physics and therefore their argument. Unfortunately people watch this video, read the article and believe this nonsense because it sounds convincing. Under closer scrutiny the argument becomes untenable. I don’t blame Sanjay Manjrekar for saying this though, as he’s only repeating what he’s been told or been persuaded to think is correct. However there is a distinct lack of understanding of what makes a Cricket Bat perform.

He fails to mention concaving, which has significantly influenced Bat Making and the profiles we see today. It has allowed Bats Makers to take Willow from other areas of the blade and redistribute mass. He ignores the transition and progression of shaping techniques, that have facilitated the larger profile. By doing so, he’s constructed that the “Modern Bat” is a separate beast that shares none of the limitations that have been endured by Cricket Bats in the past.

Within the rest of the article, he writes “As it turned out, Shahid Afridi hit two sixes to win the game for his team. That’s what went into the record books: Afridi hits two sixes off Ashwin and Pakistan beat India in a nail-biter in the Asia Cup. But if you looked at it with a cricketing eye, here is what really happened. Ashwin bowled two good deliveries, on which Afridi mistimed two lofted shots. Both times the ball did not hit the middle of Afridi’s bat – it was well away from the sweet spot – but it still sailed over the short boundaries. Those two sixes landed just a metre or two over the rope.

Why did this happen? Modern bats.”

Here’s the 2 “mistimed” shots… SKIP to 14:17

Look how hard Afridi swings the bat? He’s not trying to time it, he’s trying to bludgeon it!

This example of AFRIDI takes away from the skill of the player and implies that luck and the bat were the reasons he hit 2 sixes. No mention of the any other possible factors. As for his claim that “Ashwin bowled 2 good deliveries” it’s laughable. Ashwin got a wicket with a full ball earlier in the over and then decides to bowl length to someone who needs to hit boundaries to win the game. That’s not good bowling, it’s rubbish. You can’t blame the Cricket Bat for the bowler serving up a buffet of pies.

It’s line after line of pure, unbridled drivel that makes my blood boil. It does an injustice to the Craft of Bat Making by implying that all the Bat Maker has to do is make a Big Bat to get performance. It’s unfortunate that I’ve had to read it so many times to critique it, but it’s even worse that others also have. I truly dread to think how many times this article has been read knowing that each person has had their perception of performance skewed for the worse.

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd. – Bertrand Russell

Here’s Mark Waugh putting one on the roof…

How was he able to hit such a large six with such a small Cricket Bat? Anyone would think that perhaps there are other factors influencing performance, like the batsman. That’s silly…

My own explanation for this incredible phenomenon is that Mark Waugh travelled forward in time to 2015. Picked up a “Modern Bat”, returned to 1997 and quickly hit a massive six. He then hid the bat in the DeLorean, waiting until the bowler delivered the ball at precisely 88mph, enabling him to continue his time travelling adventures. Eat your heart out Doc Brown.

Technology shows us one side

The number of boundaries being hit has increased, as shown here. An increasing percentage of the runs scored has been scored via boundaries. But, what percentage of the boundaries are mishits? What is considered a mishit? Is the percentage greater now than it was 10 years ago?

Are we seriously saying that these mishit boundaries are a new phenomenon? The fact that we have high quality slow motion and hot spot means we are able to accurately see where the ball was hit on the bat and then draw some correlation between the impact position and the result. 20 or 30 years ago we didn’t have this luxury, but I’m willing to bet it happened and the only difference is we didn’t have the technology to see it up close.

When the batsman plays a beautiful drive that pierces the infield all along the floor for a boundary, they say “well placed, beautiful shot”. Even if the replay or Hot Spot reveals an off centre strike the conclusion is that it was the result of timing, Ian Bell consistently provides great examples of this. He times the balls beautifully more often than not and gets a boundary even when the ball hasn’t hit the exact middle, but this is because he’s met the ball at the right time and placed it and not bludgeoned it. Though bludgeoning it can be equally as successful.

It’s appears that the concern has arisen due to the prevalence of mistimed sixes, rather than mistimed fours. After all, despite the recent outcries against the number of runs conceded through Third Man, the thick outside edge for four isn’t a new occurrence.

We still see batsman go to slog the ball, get a thick edge and get caught in the inner ring. Why didn’t these super sized bats and their unfair edges make the ball fly over cover or mid on? It’s not as though you see batsman splicing the ball for 6.

I’ve hit mistimed boundaries and I’m sure there are many Village Cricketers around the country who also have, but you don’t hear the local leagues complaining about the imbalance of Bat and Ball. It’s not a new phenomenon, it’s been happening for years. The way the ICC and commentators disassociate the game today, from the game yesterday as though they’re not related is quite astounding.

It’s not the extinction of an old type of Cricket, it’s the constant Evolution of it. Tweet this

I, like many others, will remember playing Evening League Cricket. Essentially a T20 game condensed into 14 x 8 ball overs to accommodate the dying light. There were considerably more boundaries hit in this format. The Cricket Bats weren’t bigger, the boundaries weren’t smaller and you didn’t have a new ball, but the attitude of each incoming batsman was different. I haven’t mentioned one very important factor though…

The pitches

I cannot comment on the present state of International pitches and would be unable to make a comparison with those prepared 10 or 15 years ago. I can say that good batting makes the game last longer, good bowling doesn’t. Results are the norm and not the exception, ODI’s and T20’s are designed to provide a result. In spite of the increase in boundaries, outright results are still happening. Perhaps teams aren’t being bowled out as often, but at least you’re guaranteed to see a result and watch the bowlers bowl and batsman bat. The longer people stay, potentially the more money they spend.

The ICC have worked hard to draw people in with the razzmatazz of T20 Cricket and now bemoan its influence on the game in general, without acknowledging the link. If you have Domestic T20 competitions named the “T20 Blast” or the “Big Bash League”, the clue is in the title. People have been primed to expect boundaries and big scores by the name alone. Not to mention the impression T20 advertising and promotion gives us. It’s reasonable to conclude that groundsman will also play their part in meeting these expectations. After all, if the ICC are concerned about an imbalance then perhaps changing the competition names to the “T20 Tight Spell” and the “Big Block League” may be a possible option?

Why is the pitch constructed as having such a passive role in the ICC’s concerns?

Batsman can play shots all around the ground the reverse sweep, the ramp, the reverse hit, the paddle, the undercut, the Dilscoop. These shots have been developed to enable scoring behind square, opening up 360º of the ground. I don’t have access to this data but it would be worth knowing if the increase in boundaries hit could be accounted for in the confident 360º scoring? or If the growing prevalence of these shots accounts for an increasing percentage of the boundaries hit?

I’m not sure why it’s only Cricket Bats getting scrutinised. The advent of high quality and light helmets has clearly had a positive impact on batsman confidence. Though I wouldn’t make the leap to say they’ve made the game imbalanced.

If the governing body were monitoring this properly, they might have noticed that the big bat trend is losing momentum. This can be seen by all in the way in which Cricket Bats are being marketed. Size is no longer the great sales tool it once was and whilst still as effective as it ever was at indicating a bat’s performance, in other words not very. It’s simply a case of change in tastes. The market was infected with Big Bat Fever but I suspect the only cure was in fact Market Saturation. Jon Hotten’s article “The Psychology of Bat-Making” touched briefly on the limit of the material after interviewing Gray Nicolls’ Chris King. I would like to add to this clever article with the idea of Anchoring. As edges and Cricket Bats became bigger, we neared the limit and it eventually had nowhere to go. The problem was that at some point in the not too distant past, 25mm edges were considered huge. This became the norm, the anchor upon which future decisions would be made. The norm was exceeded with 30mm, this became the anchor. This was then exceeded with 35mm and so on. There was an inevitability about this, with the ceiling of the size myth pressing down on us. At some point you can get no more volume for a particular mass, without the integrity of the natural material being compromised. A point made in Jon Hotten’s article about the bat being “too fit for purpose”, live fast and die young.

Another angle

Russell Jackson contributed to the debate with an excellent article about the ICC’s concerns. He correctly draws the intense spotlight away from Bat Makers and illustrates there are many other factors influencing the game. However, despite my agreement that Bat Makers are an easier target for the ICC than positioning the spotlight on themselves and the changes they’ve made. I do believe that Bat Makers have played a role in allowing this myth to get to this point. The luxury of the Big Bat Myth is that it’s given Bat Makers a selling point and an avenue to explore in design. It was a pseudo objective way in which the consumer could assess one bat against another. For a while it worked as brands began a contest of edge comparison and one-upmanship. As the offerings became more extravagant in size, so too did the challenge facing Bat Makers. An ever increasing number of people wanted Larger and Lighter Cricket Bats which forced Bat Makers to push Willow to its limits. This was all in aid of feeding a myth.

The Bat Maker has to make a living but I feel their ability and right to exercise authority over their own Craft had in part been taken away from them. As Russell Jackson points out “They lack a clear voice because they’re rarely asked for their opinions”. Though that doesn’t prevent them from giving them. I feel that chasing the Big Bat has taken away some of the personality of the Craft, with size becoming the predominant quality. In doing this, the complex job of accounting for the variables in the crafting of a high quality Cricket Bat, have become lost and subservient. This feeds into my opinion that the Craft of Bat Making is thoroughly under appreciated and has been somewhat bastardised over recent decades. It seems that the Craft isn’t celebrated as though it has an identity of its own, which saddens me. This is particularly galling when you consider that without this knowledge you would have nothing more than over glorified fence panels for Bats. As has been illustrated with the Big Bat Myth, we have listened to the wrong people. Especially those on commentary, whose job it is to talk up the Cricket and make the dull sound extraordinary. From my own point of view, feeding the consumer what they think they want rather than educating them would be self destructive. The myth feeds itself to the point where it’s unsustainable. It inevitably collapses under its own weight… or size as the case may be.

The Craft of Bat Making

Implying that Size of a Cricket Bat is the greatest determinant in the Performance of a Cricket Bat undermines the skill and knowledge it requires to be a good Bat Maker. The term “Modern Bats” is frustrating because it implies there’s been a sudden transformation rather than a steady evolution in style that follows a popular trend. The big bat myth makes Bat Making much harder. I wouldn’t disagree with the claim that Cricket Bats have improved, but I would disagree with the idea that the improvement has been so dramatic that an imbalance in the game has been created. I would also contest that players today are at a significant advantage to those who played 10+ years ago. The game has changed and so has the environment.

Bat Makers with the aid of concaving have arguably become savvier in the way they redistribute Mass. Units of mass haven’t suddenly changed, a pound is still a pound and an ounce is still an ounce. The way that mass is manipulated has changed, but there is a limit to what you can get out of an ounce of Willow. As mentioned earlier, the Big Bat myth utilises the positive association between added Mass and Volume and therefore Power, but without acknowledging that it’s the Mass in this scenario that provides the Potential Energy. Without evidence to support the claim that the added Volume is added Power, it means nothing. If you want increased Volume for a particular Mass e.g. 2lbs 10oz, you need to remove the excess through moisture or engage in some clever shaping. I hope I’m ramming this point home. Whilst concaving and shaping can give us a little bit more performance from our Cricket Bats, you can’t defy Physics. It’s fair to suspect that the ceiling has been reached and as has been implied in Jon Hotten’s article, Psychology has and always will be a factor.

I admit I may be wrong about this, with evidence possibly just around the corner. Volume could well be the greatest the determinant of Power, the performance of Cricket Bats could be causing an imbalance between Bat and Ball. But until there’s an argument strong enough to dispel my doubt, I will continue to question its validity. A growing wealth of evidence should lead us to an absolute truth about Cricket Bat Performance, but I fear this won’t happen. Any Bat Maker knows there are many factors influencing Performance, all of which they have to cater to. However these are mercurial, with one playing a greater role in one cleft when compared with another. The emphasis on size takes away the importance of adaptability, knowledge and experience.

I’ll only briefly mention that Feel and Sound have a role to play. A bat can easily feel as though it has a larger sweetspot, but without imparting an increase in performance. The way we experience these is subjective. The Bat Maker could tell you they’re hoping to hear a certain sound when they strike the blade, but to quantify that sound would be difficult. It’s part of a database they build up through experience which allows them judge every Cricket Bat during the crafting process.

The ICC

The straw that broke the camels back for me and others with a love for Bat Making was the ICC Chief Executive, David Richardson’s views on the dominance of batsmen in limited-overs Cricket.

ICC have publicly stated that the size of Cricket Bats is an issue that needs to be investigated. Thereby constructing this as a point of concern for Cricketers and Cricket fans when it’s nothing of the sort. The timing is as bad as it gets. When all eyes are on Cricket’s greatest International Competition, the ICC have nominated their official scapegoat for any games decided with mistimed boundaries. It externalises the problem and puts it squarely at the feet of Bat Makers. In my opinion, it couldn’t be more irrelevant. It’s far down on the list of things influencing the possible imbalance of the game. Any advancement in Cricket Bat design or construction has been quickly curtailed or banned by the MCC, sometimes without sufficient evidence to support the claim that an advantage had been gained. The MCC has been relatively proactive in maintaining a balance, in my opinion sometimes to the detriment of the evolution of the Craft of Bat Making but they should be commended nonetheless. The ICC are arriving a week late to the party, not appropriately dressed and bearing Greek gifts.

The MCC have highlighted pitches, player fitness and open the possibility for other influential factors in this article. They also mention AB de Villiers’ immense ODI century against the West Indies. Without wishing to detract from his talent, I watched that innings and the West Indies’ bowling was lamentable.

For every theory about cricket bat performance, there is a bat that defies that theory. Tweet this

I’ve used Cricket Bats with wavy grains, broad grains and narrow grains. Bats with no blemishes, some blemishes and ones with more blemish than Willow. I’ve had heartwood that have lasted years and Sapwood bats that have lasted months. It’s not an exact science and so many theories fall on stoney ground when engaging with a natural material. Despite all of this I would welcome limitations on Cricket Bat size. It would usher in a new chapter of creativity for Bat Makers, an obstacle to overcome. But above all else, it would mean I wouldn’t have to hear about it anymore and we can get back to thinking that a Bat Maker’s skills extend beyond just making something big.

If you’re still reading, Thank You. If you agree, disagree, or want to have an opinion on this. Please get in touch via Twitter @WWBats. I’ll finish with this question…

If the ICC do choose to limit the size of Cricket Bats and it proves ineffective, What then?