10 May The idea of Utility and the Disposable Nature of a Cricket Bat.
A blog that I always read and enjoy is that of The English Woodworker. Helen and Richard from Maguire Workbenches consistently provide some interesting insights into the world of woodworking.
One of their recent posts highlighted a similar problem that I’ve noticed is present in bat making. Despite the fact that their workbenches are pieces of furniture as impressive as a beautiful dining room table, they’re still seen as utility items relegated in theory to the workshop but celebrated in practice by woodworkers. More questions are raised about pricing, quality and the constant job of maintenance (but those are posts for another time). When on the surface you can buy a similar workbench for less you’d be tempted to think they were comparable and you’re getting a bargain. However you’re not, the cheaper ones often sacrifice weight, rigidity and flexibility. Three things you need in a workbench (said from experience).
So much of this rings true in my experience with many other crafts including bat making. Cricket bats are perceived as tools, items of utility that are disposable in nature. Simply built to perform and expire.
It seems a cricket bat always has two questions hanging over its handle…
Will it perform?
How long will it last?
Some cricket bats last decades but most don’t. With this it becomes harder and harder to have an “old favourite” when the bat expires quickly or it’s only 2 seasons old. Speaking of which at what point does a cricket bat become your old favourite?
Changes in the game of Cricket have altered the expectations we have of our equipment and the cricket bat has changed accordingly. More 4’s, more 6’s and faster scoring means we expect more from our equipment sooner. As an example we’ll take preparing a new bat, a task that’s initially undertaken with great enthusiasm but soon becomes a state of purgatory. Hence we have bats that are sold as knocked in or pre-prepared to save us the time and effort. Possibly manufacturers feel that fewer people are taking the time to get to know their new bat and are giving them a head start? or it’s about reducing returns and repairs? or it’s that when given the choice between a bat that’s knocked in and one that’s not, which one is the person who has no desire to prepare a cricket bat going to pick?
After all they’ve bought this tool to score runs and they want to start dispatching the new ball bowlers for dismissive boundaries as soon as possible.
Yet if the cricket bat is utility and we are to extract the most performance or durability from it, we have to care for it. In that respect it goes beyond utility, like the workbench that is loved by the woodworker, the cricket bat can become loved by the batsmen. Regardless of its age, its grains or its size, it’s instead about the relationship we’ve built with the bat.
The relationship that the hand craftsman builds with an item doesn’t end with them and Richard succinctly summarises this with “I am really grateful to be able to sell to woodworkers. People who understand the product or are incredibly excited to learn about it”.
Whilst you can never change the fact that a cricket bat will eventually expire, that shouldn’t alter the desire to craft something that exceeds the expectations we would have for a utility item.