Re-engineering: Farokh Engineer
There have been vast improvements that cricket has witnessed if you compare my playing days and the present era. One aspect that stands out for me though is the quality of bats these days. I picked up Sachin Tendulkars bat two years ago,and trust me,my mouth was watering. I wish I could have used a bat like that. And honestly,even at my age of 70,I could have hit any bowler for a six with that bat!
We used to have a thin blade,like a Brooke Bond chai ka dabba. It remotely resembled a bat if you ask me. Those bats had such a small sweet spot,not more than an inch. Now the whole bat is a sweet spot. The improvements have been similar when it comes to tennis racquets and golf clubs also. They too sport a bigger middle these days. As a result,even mishits go for six.
I am not taking any credit away from the modern batsmen at all. Dont get me wrong. I have the highest regard for Sachin,Chris Gayle and all the other modern-day greats. But these bats have made batting look so easy. If the ball hits the centre,then expect the ball to fly out of the stadium. But even leading edges and top-edges soar over the fence these days. The edges themselves are so thick. Thats why we are seeing so many more sixes. Theres a temptation to swing the bat even more.
These modern-day bats are so light to lift and have so much bulk in them. You are having the benefit of both. I used to use a heavy bat too,weighing 2lbs 12 oz. And I used to use three or four grips on my handle so that it lifts better.
Timing was the only thing you had as a batsman with the bats of the bygone era. You had to connect with the middle to hit a four or a six on each occasion. You needed to be more skilled to hit boundaries back then.
And the conditions were stacked up against batsmen too. The bowlers were much quicker.
When I got 94 before lunch on the first morning of a Test match in Madras,I was facing Wes Hall,Charlie Griffith,Roy Gilchrist and Garry Sobers. These were bowlers who could rip it in at over 100 mph. There were no restrictions on bouncers. You could bowl six bouncers or beamers in an over.
I used to play the hook shot all the time. My eyesight was very good. Even with the tin-pot bat that we had,I managed to hit the ball over the fence. There were no helmets back then either and no protection at all except a pink plastic box. If that shattered,then the rest of you shattered as well.
Allan Knott,former England wicket-keeper,and I were sponsored by the same bat company. But they made absolutely useless cricket bats. So we both used bats of another manufacturer but Alan was smart enough to put up stickers of our original sponsors on his bat and mine. We used to get two bats for a season from our sponsor,but we preferred to pay for our equipment and get the good quality ones.
Brylcreem was my saviour. I was the first Indian cricketer to start endorsing products. There used to be a big hoarding near Chowpatty on Marine Drive with Farokh Engineer either wearing cosmetics or riding scooters. It used to be embarrassing to drive under it. That was the money that supplemented our incomes a little bit.
Speaking of big West Indians and even bigger bats,I roomed with one for many years at Lancashire. And Clive Lloyd used the heaviest bat I have ever seen. What was more important is,he used it amazingly well. In fact I was the one who got Lloyd to Lancashire.
Garry Sobers and I were the original invitees for Lancashire. I was the first Indian cricketer to be invited to play professional county cricket in England. I had offers from four counties,Worcestershire,Somerset,Hampshire and Lancashire. With Sobers shifting to Nottinghamshire,we had to get an overseas player urgently. As the senior overseas player,I recommended Lloyd who qualified as he was playing in the Lancashire League for Haslingden.
I brought him to Lancashire. And he was my roommate and what a partnership we had. We still live close to each other and remain great friends.
He too employed my tactic of having three to four grips on his bat. We had to oil our bats and scrape them. We had to really take time out to pamper our bats. We didnt have attendants doing it for us. But Im happy for the present lot. I am a huge fan of T20 cricket.
I knew it was here to stay the first time I saw it live in England. The enhanced bowling and fielding skills are all great for cricket.
Whats most exciting and puts bums on seats are the mighty sixes. And I feel the modern-day bats have made all the difference in that regard.