Making a choice
Those who set out to buy their first bat should know the choice will depend on whether it for use as a professional or an amateur’s casual weekend games.
If you are a professional, the focus should be on buying a good English willow. For the amateur, it is advisable to try out a Kashmir willow initially.
The price varies significantly. The English willow tends to be softer and far more expensive than the Kashmir wood, which is harder and cheap.
The key factor
Weight of the bat is the key aspect while buying a bat. Some prefer lighter bats and others heavier ones. Lighter bats are ideal for timing shots, and are easy on the elbow. Heavier bats are usually preferred by power-hitters.
Sachin Tendulkar used heavy bats weighing around 1.3 kg (approx 3-1/2 pounds), and didn’t discard them despite suffering back spasms in 1999 and a serious tennis elbow in 2004. For him, comfort is what mattered. “The bat should be an extension of your arm,” says the master.
Later in his career, Tendulkar used to start with a heavy bat and then switch to a lighter one. Limited-overs skipper prefers a lighter bat mid-innings and switches to a heavy bat for the slog overs. Yuvraj Singh prefers a lighter bat and can still hit the ball a long way.
Next comes the balance and feel while holding the bat. This means the weight should be distributed in the centre, not at the bottom of the bat. Having that balance will help time the ball well. A willow not properly balanced will hinder the playing of certain shots.
Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane are very particular about the shape of their bat, top to bottom. A slight change in design and it is rejected.
The next crucial aspect in a bat is the grains, the vertical lines that run parallel from top to bottom. Evenly spaced grains indicate a good bat. A spot may affect the bat’s durability.
The thickness at the edges is the next factor. The English willow being soft wood, players prefer thick edges as it increases the stroke or punch. A casual player is advised to buy thoroughly pressed bats. They may not have edges, but will last longer. Thick edges, unlike properly pressed ones, can break easily.
The handle comes last. There are short-handle and long-handle bats. Shorter handles are preferred by players with average height. Taller batsmen prefer longer handles so they don’t have to bend much; it also helps play the lofted shot better.
Aussie stalwarts Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden used the long handle, and both held the bat at the top of the handle, and could play lofted shots even away from the body. Tendulkar had a bottom-handed grip, which he got used to as a boy.
His teammate Vinod Kambli would add as many as six rubber grips to make the handle thicker, while Kohli likes a thin handle with one grip.
For starters, be it professional or amateur, an English willow bat in the range of R3000-4000 would be good; Quality Kashmir willow blades will cost around R1500.
In Delhi, players can buy bats at Bajaj Sports and Gupta Sports in Connaught Place, and at Lodi Sports at Lodhi Road’s main market. Misra Sports in Patel Nagar, West Delhi also has a wide variety of sports goods.