Cricket is a demanding game; balls are often excessively hard, and generally the softest element whenever a ball is trapped is the bat itself. Damage is part of the game. But regular maintenance and prompt attention to any damage will keep your bat performing and dependable.
CRICKET BAT WILLOW - English willow - is by nature a soft fibrous reed. Performance and durability are enhanced by drying and pressing. In normal usage willow will become bruised, scarred or dented simply due to the nature of the game (the impact with the ball.) The performance of the bat will not be affected. Such marking can occur at any time during the lifespan of the bat, but will be much worse if a bat is under prepared before use.
Care and maintenance for a cricket bat is simple – the bat needs oil, patient knocking in and preferably antiscuff facing for at least the first season. Bats should be checked regularly for any damage which can be repaired with careful knocking in, light sanding, bat tape and wood glue (pva). If you are unsure about the damage get advice from your stockist. At the close of the season the bat should be oiled and any remedial work undertaken. Bats prepared and looked after will repay you with performance and longevity.
PREPARATION FOR PLAY
All natural faced bats MUST be treated using raw linseed or a specialist cricket bat oil. The main purpose of oiling is to maintain moisture levels within the blade, and hence reduce the chances of cracking and splitting. Light coats should be applied to the face, edge, toe and back of the blade, taking care to avoid the logos and splice area. Generally two or three coats should be sufficient – approx half a teaspoon. Each coat should be allowed to dry into the blade, which should be kept in a horizontal position before the next is applied.
DO NOT OVER OIL - DO NOT STAND THE BAT IN OIL
DO NOT LEAVE THE BAT IN A VERTICAL POSITION AFTER OILING
All bats are pressed, however "knocking-in" is VITAL. This is the process by which the fibres of the willow in the face and edges are compressed together to form a barrier that protects the bat against the impact of the ball. Effective "knocking-in" will significantly improve the performance and increase the lifespan of the bat.
STAGE ONE: The "knocking-in" process should be undertaken carefully using a special bat mallet or an old quality cricket ball. The bat should be repeatedly struck (with gradually increasing force) against the striking face of the blade paying particular attention to the face around the edges and toe. The edges or toe should not be struck directly at right angles to the blade. Glancing blows off the face to round the edge should be used. Patience is key! Do not strike the splice, handle, end or rear of the blade. This stage should take in the region of six hours, although every bat is different.
STAGE TWO: The next step is to graduate to the use of the bat to hit short catches with an old, quality cricket ball. However, if the seam marks the blade it is necessary to return to "stage one" for further conditioning. This stage should be performed for at least another hour. Once these steps have been taken, the bat should be ready for use in matches, but carefully monitored and any dents or cracks dealt with as appropriate. It is advisable to initially avoid use against the "new ball" or cheap balls. In addition to these steps it is recommended that the purchaser follows closely the "bat care" instructions issued by the manufacturer.
BAT FACINGS/ ANTI SCUFF
Anti-scuff facing is highly recommended for the first season. Before the first game or nets, and after buffing off any excess wax/oil, carefully apply anti-scuff to the face. After the first season's use, it is essential that the facing is carefully removed (from left to right across the grain of the bat). The face and edges can then be gently sanded for application of oil or wax. The bat will benefit from being left natural out of season with regular coats of wax/oil. A new sheet of anti-scuff can then be applied before the next season's use.
LIFESPAN OF A CRICKET BAT
There can be no definitive length of time that a cricket bat will last. The condition of a bat deteriorates with use. The length of time before the player needs to replace his bat will depend upon: The amount of use, The standard of play (higher standard generally equates to shorter life due to quicker bowling, harder hitting etc), and the care with which the bat is treated and prepared.
SITUATIONS WHICH MAY OCCUR WITHIN THE LIFESPAN OF ANY CRICKET BAT
CAUSE - General wear and tear or possible manufacturing fault.
SOLUTION - The bat itself is not replaceable, but the handle may be repaired or replaced at the MANUFACTURER'S discretion – dependant on the age and condition of the bat
SURFACE CRACKING TO THE FACE OF THE BLADE
CAUSE - General wear and tear, use of hard cheap balls, inadequate knocking in or oiling.
SOLUTION - NOT REPLACEABLE, crack will not affect the performance of the bat. Repairable with careful knocking in and light sanding. More major damage repairable at the MANUFACTURER'S discretion depending on the age and condition of the bat
SURFACE CRACKING TO THE EDGE OF THE BLADE
CAUSE - General wear and tear, mis-timed or mis-hit shots, inadequate knocking in. Bats with thick square edges are very susceptible to this sort of damage and MUST be thoroughly prepared.
SOLUTION - NOT REPLACEABLE, crack will not affect the performance of the BAT. Repairable with careful knocking in and light sanding. More major damage repairable at the MANUFACTURER'S discretion.
SURFACE CRACKING TO THE TOE OF THE BLADE
CAUSE - general wear and tear. This type of damage is often caused by the striking of a "yorker" delivery and/or excessive tapping of the crease.
SOLUTION - NOT REPLACEABLE, crack will not affect the performance of the BAT. Repairable at the MANUFACTURER'S discretion dependant on the age and condition of the bat.
SPLIT THROUGH THE TOE AREA OF THE BLADE
CAUSE - This type of damage is caused by the striking of a ball at, or near the base of the blade, e.g. the driving of a "yorker".
SOLUTION - Repairable and/or replaceable at the MANUFACTURER'S discretion dependant on the age and condition of the bat.
CRACKING TO THE SHOULDER OF THE BLADE
CAUSE - General wear and tear, mis-hit shots.
SOLUTION - NOT REPLACEABLE, repairable at the MANUFACTURER'S discretion depending on the age and condition of the bat.
CAUSE - this type of damage occurs as a result of use in damp or wet conditions. It generally leads to swelling of the toe area of the blade, which after drying may well split.
SOLUTION - NOT REPLACEABLE, there is no fault in the manufacturing or the materials used. The damage may be repairable at the MANUFACTURER'S discretion and the CUSTOMER' S cost.
BREAKAGE TO THE BLADE
CAUSE - Weak or excessively dry willow.
SOLUTION - Potentially replaceable by full or partial credit, at MANUFACTURER'S discretion dependant on the age and condition of the bat.
HINTS AND TIPS
Pay attention to your bat; sometimes it is impossible to avoid damaging shots, but if damage occurs then
attend to it straight away to maximise its lifespan and comply with the bat's guarantee.
Lightly oil/wax the exposed parts of the blade/toe little and often to keep the bat nourished and
Avoid 'tapping' at the wicket. The toe is the most vulnerable area of the bat and tapping is the single
biggest cause of serious damage. If you are a “serial tapper” it is worth investing in a toe protector!!
If your bat gets wet, allow it to dry naturally then inspect it for any signs of swelling or fibres opening
up which will need attention.
Storage is important. Keep the bat in a moderate stable environment. For example, avoid leaving in a car boot or near sources of heat.
Beware of cheap balls, especially in junior cricket. Poor quality, cheap cricket balls with hard centres are a menace to bats and the game and a false economy by clubs when they damage individuals' bats.