One would assume that the thicker the blade, the longer the hit; the longer the hit, the bigger the buzz; and the bigger the buzz, the more the demand for bats. Why is then that a guideline on bat thickness that is set to be enforced by cricket’s lawmakers at St John’s Wood in London-NW8 made a bunch of stakeholders at Surajkund in Meerut-250002 rather ecstatic on Wednesday?
“The (Indian) bat makers will be happy,” declares BDM’s Rakesh Mahajan in a phone conversation with The Indian Express. That makes them the second group, and a rather unwitting one, to welcome the MCC’s decision to put an upper limit on the z-axis of the blade after, obviously, the bowlers.
Mahajan elaborates. “This demand of making thicker bats with light weight has placed tremendous pressure on us. Players want the thickest of bats. But at the same time, they want the weight to not exceed 1100 grams. Ab aap hi batao ki ye kaise possible hai.”
“And what can the players do? The public wants to see big sixes, even if they are mishits and edges. So batsmen want those kind of bats which have 45-50mm edges and 70mm overall thickness. But hamara problem ye hai ki ham 40mm se zyada nahi de sakte. (But our problem is that we can’t provide more meat than 40mm). Because, we don’t get it ourselves.
“There is only one supplier of the preferred lightweight English willow blades world over: JS Wright & Sons of England. And the willow that they send doesn’t have edges more than 40mm. Why? Because ek standard 24-inch mote tree se, they can take out material sufficient for six raw blades which have the edge allowance of 40mm, and with a total thickness not exceeding 65mm. If we ask them for thicker raw blades, that makes it more expensive. But they can’t increase the price. Will we be able to afford it? So there are a lot of considerations,” says Mahajan, whose company once supplied bats to Virat Kohli.
“Under pressure, we do jugaads to take the edges up to 42mm — wo bhi machine se possible nahi hai — but it’s not possible to go beyond. Chhote level pe to do blades join bhi kar sakte ho, par international level pe ye allowed nahi hai,” Mahajan says.
There is one company that makes insanely thick bats, and that is East Sussex-based Gray-Nicholls. Explosive Australian opener David Warner, whose bat looks as if it is on steroids, uses Gray-Nicholls’ special series of fat bats, Kaboom. “Gray-Nicholls is based in England and, therefore, has access to the lightweight English willow. Therefore, they can push Warner’s blade upto 50mm (edge) and 70mm (thickness), but we can’t. This rule makes the playing field level for us,” concludes Mahajan.