Ponting played with ‘graphite bat’ for 5 years; The story of becoming modern with the hockey shape of the bat. Cricket Bat History and Evolution; The Past, Present, and More

3 hours agoWriters: Abhishek Pandey

It is December 1979. The Test match between Australia and England was going on at the Perth Stadium. Australian batsman Dennis Lillee hits a ball. Despite hitting hard, the ball could not reach the boundary line, but the shape of the ball went deteriorating. In a short time, England captain Mike Brearley got suspicious. He complained to the umpire about Lillee’s bat. The umpire investigated and found that Lillee was playing with an aluminum bat.

Till that time, there was no rule regarding what the cricket bat was made of. However, after this incident, it became a rule that the cricket bat should be of wood only. The journey from the inception of the cricket bat to its modern version is replete with many such interesting anecdotes. In the ‘Tales of Cricket Kit’ series, today we will talk about the bat.

The first mention of the cricket bat is found in the 16th century

On 28 August 1624, during a local match in England, a fielder named Jasper Vinall was killed by a cricket bat. This news appeared in the newspapers and the matter reached the court. The BAT was first mentioned about this news.

In that match, Vinal was fielding close to batsman Edward Tye. Tye hits a ball that goes up in the air, Vinal reaches under the ball to take the catch. But to avoid being out, he reached to hit the ball again before it was caught. Tye’s eyes were on the ball and instead of the ball, he hit Vinal’s head with the bat. Ty was stunned by this and went to a corner of the field and said that it was an accident.

Vinal died on 10 September 1624, 13 days after being wounded in this incident. This is considered to be the first incident of the death of a cricketer on the field in cricket history.

Till then it was not a rule that a batsman cannot hit the same ball twice. After this, in a similar incident in 1647, a cricketer named Henry Brand was killed in West Sussex, England. Almost 100 years later, in 1744, this rule was made that no batsman can deliberately strike the ball twice, doing so will be considered out.

The shape of the oldest bat was like a modern hockey stick. At that time there was no rule to throw the ball over-the-arm in cricket and under-arm bowling was done. Meaning the ball could be thrown without moving the hand, bringing the hand near the waist. The balls did not have speed like today, so they could also be played with a bat like a hockey stick.

This picture is from the early days of village cricket in England, which shows how the early bats used to be.  (courtesy: ICC)

This picture is from the early days of village cricket in England, which shows how the early bats used to be. (courtesy: ICC)

In 1771, the batsman came with a bat as wide as the three stumps.

By the end of the 17th century, cricket bats had replaced the hockey stick with a rectangular shape at the bottom. However, there was a big difference between them compared to today’s bats. Till then there were no rules regarding the size and shape of the bat.

The story of the formation of the first rule regarding the cricket bat is very interesting. In September 1771 a cricket match was played between Chertsey and Hambledon in the county of Surrey, England. Chertsey’s batsman Shock White came out to bat with a bat of equal width to all three wickets.

In cricket history, this incident is popularly known as ‘Monster Bat Incident of 1771’. The record of how many runs Shock White scored in this match is not available, but after Hambledon’s 218 runs, White’s team lost to Chertsey by 1 run in this match. After the match, Hambledon bowler Thomas Brett complained about Shock’s giant bat.

After the monster bat incident of 1771, the first rules regarding cricket bats were made in 1774 and for the first time the width of the cricket bat was fixed at 4.25 inches or 108 mm. This rule of bat width is applicable even today.

In England, a batsman named Shock White came out to play with a monster bat as wide as all three wickets.  After this, the width of the bat was decided for the first time.  (This picture is symbolic.)

In England, a batsman named Shock White came out to play with a monster bat as wide as all three wickets. After this, the width of the bat was decided for the first time. (This picture is symbolic.)

The length of the cricket bat was decided in 1835.

The first rules of cricket were made in 1744. The first law of cricket bat was made in 1774. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the governing body of the Laws of Cricket, was established in 1777. For the first time in 1835, the MCC fixed the length of the cricket bat at 38 inches or 965.2 mm. This rule still remains in place.

In 1979, Lily landed with an aluminum bat, then the rule of wooden bat was made

In 1979, Dennis Lillee of Australia went out to play with an aluminum bat in the Perth Test against England. The special thing is that a few days before this test, Lillee had also played with an aluminum bat in a test match against the West Indies, but he was soon out and the Windies players did not pay much attention to this matter.

When Lillee started playing with the aluminum bat against England, the shape of the ball started deteriorating. England captain Mike Brearley complained to the umpires. Australian captain Greg Chappell himself felt that the ball was not going very far when hit with this bat. In such a situation, he also prevented Lily from playing with this bat.

Eventually, after much discussion, Lily agreed to it but angrily he threw the aluminum bat away and then played with a wooden bat. After this controversy, the MCC, banning aluminum bats, made a rule that cricket bats should be made of wood only.

The aluminum bat was made by the company of a friend of Dennis Lilly.  Lilly later said that using it was a marketing ploy.  After this incident, this bat became a hit and it sold well before the ban.

The aluminum bat was made by the company of a friend of Dennis Lilly. Lilly later said that using it was a marketing ploy. After this incident, this bat became a hit and it sold well before the ban.

In 2005 Ponting’s graphite coated bat created a ruckus

In 2005, there was a controversy over Australia’s Ricky Ponting playing with graphite coating on his bat. This Kahuna Bat of Potting was made by the Kookaburra Company of Australia. The company had done a carbon-graphite coating on the front part of this bat’s blade. In 2005, the ICC asked the MCC to look into the matter. In February 2006, the MCC banned this bat with graphite coating declaring it invalid.

The special thing is that even before this bat was banned, Ponting had played with this graphite coating bat for about 5 years. According to Wisden, while playing with a graphite-coated bat, Ponting averaged 70.57 in Tests and 42.57 in ODIs from December 2003 to April 2005. The ban on graphite coated bats did not affect Ponting’s batting and after that he scored 74.33 runs in Tests and 51.32 in ODIs from March 2006 to the end of the 2007 World Cup. Apart from Ponting, Damien Martin, Justin Langer and Sanath Jayasuriya also played.

In 2006, when the MCC banned Ricky Ponting's bat with graphite coating, Ponting had played with this bat for 5 years.

In 2006, when the MCC banned Ricky Ponting’s bat with graphite coating, Ponting had played with this bat for 5 years.

In 2010, Matthew Hayden and Raina Mangoose played with the bat.

With the rise of T20 and especially IPL cricket, such bats began to be made, which made it easy to play quick shots. Matthew Hayden made a lot of headlines in IPL 2010 while playing with the Mangoose bat. In a match for CSK, Hayden scored 93 runs in 43 balls.

Compared to ordinary bats, the blade of the Mangoose bat was 33% shorter and the handle was 43% longer. Due to the structure of the Mangoose bat, its sweet spot had increased by 120%. Hayden was successful in IPL 2010 with this bat but this bat was not very successful.

Suresh Raina also used this bat for a few days, but it was getting difficult in defending the ball, so he again returned to the normal bat.

In the 2010 IPL, Matthew Hayden of Australia made headlines by playing with the long handle and short blade Mongoose bat.

In the 2010 IPL, Matthew Hayden of Australia made headlines by playing with the long handle and short blade Mongoose bat.

From the beginning till now, there are many such tales related to the bat. We have threaded these into a graphic…

Now know what are the official rules of the bats that are used now…

Now let’s know some features of the bats of different players…

  • In the early 20th century, great batsmen like Don Bradman, Vijay Merchant and Wally Hammond used bats of the same shape and size but their weights were different. At that time, the average bats weighed from 900 grams to 1 kg. Will Ponsford, who played for Australia from 1924–1934, used a bat of about 1.30 kg, which was considered the heaviest bat at that time.
  • By the 1960s, Windies batsman Clive Lloyd and African batsman Graeme Pollock had started using bats weighing 1.5 kg. Although powerful shots could be made with a heavy bat, it was difficult to play some shots with them.
  • The great batsman Ranjitsinhji, who is called the ‘Father of Indian Cricket’, invented the leg glance-like shot while playing with a bat weighing less than 1 kg.
  • With the advent of ODI and T20 cricket, the craze for the heavy bat grew in modern cricket. India’s great batsman Sachin Tendulkar and South Africa’s Lance Klusener used to play with a bat weighing about 1.5 kg. Because of this, Sachin suffered a back injury at the age of just 25.
  • Sachin had reduced the weight of his bat a little further in his career. David Warner’s bat weighed only 1.2–1.4 kg, but he courted controversy with his use of 85 mm width bats made by Gary Nicholls. In 2017, the MCC fixed the bat depth limit to 67 mm.

Modern bats have reduced weight, but increased depth and edge capacity.

In modern bats, the edge is further widened, protruding more at the back. With the bat made in this way, the whole focus shifted to the ‘sweet spot’. The sweet spot is the part of the bat from which the best shots can be played. After fixing the sweet spot, the focus was on reducing the weight of the bat. The most important role in this plays the dryness of the willow girl. Reducing the moisture content of the willow wood not only made the bat lighter but also retained its strength.

In the 19th century, there was more focus on the longevity of the bat, but today’s cricketers do not worry about it and carry many bats with them. Now batsmen usually use up to 10 bats in a season. The capacity of a bat is determined by how long the wood has been pressed while making it. The more the wood is pressed, the more its strength decreases, although such bats tend to last longer. That is why according to the demand of modern cricketers, the wood is not pressed much while making the bat, due to this they are less durable, but their capacity increases manifold.

Modern cricket bats are lighter than the bats of a few decades ago. But the edge and width of these bats have increased many times more than before. This is the reason why batsmen like Dhoni, Rohit, de Villiers and Kohli play aggressive shots with great ease even using a lighter bat than Sachin and Klusener.

Mike Brearley, who was the chairman of the MCC on the changes in the bat over the last few decades, said in an interview in 2017, ‘In 1905 the width of the bat was 16 mm, by 1980 it increased to 18 mm and now the average width of the bat in professional cricket is 35-40 mm, which is sometimes up to 60 mm. It shows how fast change has happened.

Bats started from willow tree of England and then started making bats from Kashmiri willow

Cricket bats are usually made in England from the wood of the willow tree. But with the spread of cricket all over the world, bats started being made at the local level too. Efforts were also made in Australia and New Zealand to grow willow trees from England. Due to the British, willow reached Kashmir and after the 19th century, Kashmiri willow bats were also made, which also became quite famous.

There is more news…

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