City Express The Tale of Willows All About Craft

“Once Rameez Raja came here and selected a Larson bat and gave it to Saeed Anwar. It was with that bat Anwar hit 194 at Chepauk.”

AUSTRALIAN cricket captain Ricky Ponting’s bat may have hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons but for many, a ‘cricket bat – the most important part of a batsman’s armoury- is worth a careful look.

And of course, bat manufacturing, to use a cliche -`the transformation of a piece of wood to weaponry’- is a craft by itself.

For instance, Rahul Dravid reportedly has a liking for a bat with a flatter back so as to get a feel of the pick-up and the punch. Tendulkar, on the contrary, changes the size and shape of his bat time and again, but prefers the bat with a bulging, curving back.

“Today’s cricket bats give the batsmen a 30 per cent advantage over the bowlers and the reason for this could be technical, adequate compressing and a lot of wood in the middle of the bat, enhancing the batsmen’s performance and providing the players, the power to clear the grounds,” opines K Jayaraman, the BCCI under-19 selector based in Chennai.

You take a look at the names of some of the bats which includes


Kookaburra ‘Angry beast’, Gray Nicolls GN’Monster’ or the ‘Vampire King Hitter’ from BAS, and you will be forced to agree with Jayaraman.

The fascinating world of cricket bats is yet to be explored to its fullest potential. “The subject has not been addressed with any modicum of expertise, partly due to the fact that there has not been available specialist reference on the subject matter,” wrote Douglas A Watling while penning the book `Life and times of the cricket bat’.

Things are moving from worse to better as today we have reference books though in limited editions. All these books broadly classify the willows into English and Kashmir willows. And the textbooks say that the more the number of grains (vaguely discernible strips running down the height of the bat) the better the bat.

On the technical side pressing of the bat, which experts define to be as similar as running a heavy roller on the pitch, is the most important. The logic behind pressing is like “knocking” the bat after purchase, that is to compress the bats and to bring the particles together so that the bat doesn’t break easily.

Yes, the English willow reigns supreme according to the trade pundits and that is why they command a higher price tag. “Most of the bats in the senior category, that comes under Rs 1000, promising to be an English willow is genuinely fake,” Director of  ‘Bat Craft India International’, J K Mahendra, who runs a shop that sells cricket products in Chennai.

“The top brands of bats including Gunn and Moore, Grey Nicolls, Fearnly are in England. They keep the superior English willows and export the next grade to India for manufacturing,” explained Mahendra, once captain of Kerala and member of Indian schools cricket team.

Airing similar views with Mahendra is G C Dangi, Director of the ‘The Pavilion’, one of the leading sports goods sellers in Chennai. “The manufacturing of many of the English bats is done in India, especially at Jalandhar and Meerut. The heavy cost one has to incur for buying reimported finished bat makes the deal somewhat ill advisable,” says Dangi.

Also, with a clientele that includes Hemang Badani, Dinesh Karthik and new age sensation Anirudha Srikkanth ‘The Pavilion’ has a lot of stories to tell. “Once Rameez Raja came here and selected Anwar. It was with that bat Anwar hit 194 at Chepauk,” recalls Dangi.

Coincidences are also seen in international cricket. The chase 175 bat that was used by Robin Smith was named so as to commemorate his highest one day score. Also, there are bats including Lara 400, that derives its name from the cricket score the West Indian made.