“Test cricket is bloody hard work,” Michael Hussey once said. “Especially when you’ve got Sachin batting with what looks like a three-metre-wide bat.” Size does matter for these men on a cricket field. “It’s still wood though, isn’t it? Ultimately, if you can find the best piece of wood you shouldn’t be penalised for that,” was how Brendon McCullum put it.
No longer, though. MS Dhoni, David Warner, Glen Maxwell and Chris Gayle — the men who wield fat pieces of wood, need to call the wood shavers. Ricky Ponting and Mike Brearley, among others in the MCC world cricket committee, have decided enough is enough and have stepped in to stop the balance loaded too much in batsman’s favour.
“Bat edges will have a maximum allowance of 40mm and bat depths must not exceed 67mm (60mm plus an allowance of 7mm for a possible curve on the face of the bat). Many of the top players’ bats have edges of between 38mm and 42mm, but there are some which have edges of up to 50mm, which was felt to be excessive and in need of restriction,” the committee said on Wednesday in Mumbai. The ruling would take effect on October 1 2017.
What are the current dimensions used by the batsmen? Paras Anand, SG Sports marketing director in Meerut, the place where the bats of top international batsmen gets shaped and made, throws some light on the issue.
“With the edges around 45mm and the height of the spine is about 65 to 70 mm. The standard bats that we make at SG have edges between 36 to 39mm and the height of the spine about 60 to 64 mm. After these modifications, I reckon top edges won’t fly for sixes over thirdman anymore,” Anand told The Indian Express.
Ponting framed his concern thus: “The average players’ bat edge size now is 38 and 42mm and there are exceptions to that. Some guys use edges in excess of 50 mm. That is what we are worried about.”
Shaving off the leading edge
It isn’t the top-edges that Ponting is worried about, he isn’t too chuffed with the fact either that even leading edges and mishits are carrying over the boundary. Neither is he worried about how the strong men like Warner and Dhoni would handle; it’s the lesser-abled men whose batting skills are enhanced and over-amplified by the quality of wood that he is fretting about.
“We are always talking about the balance between bat and ball. We have seen in the last few years, it has gone too far in favour of the batsmen and it is more about mishits going for six. Certain top-edges in the game may not travel to deep backward square and fine leg. That does not have a lot to do with the shape of the bat, more so the mishits or the leading edges off the bat still clearing the boundaries. That is one of the concerns. The shape of the bat is increasing bigger and bigger,” Ponting said.
It’s not such a clear-cut issue though. For long now, the bat manufacturers have been laughing at some of the ill-conceived opinions about bats. “What we’re up against is the belief that a big bat is more powerful than a bat of the same,” Chris King, Gray-Nicolls bat maker has said in the past.
It’s not the size or thick edges but the weight distribution that matters more. The density of the willow, and the way the bats are pressed has made the bats really light but still packing quite a punch.
On Wednesday, Jatin Paranjpe, an Indian selector, was seen picking up Virat Kohli’s bat. The back-lift would have been almost weightless – such is the way these bats are wondrously designed these days. The bats might be bigger these days but not necessarily heavier than the ones used in the past. The moisture content on a willow is kept lower and the pressing isn’t done as much as before. Also, the wood is shaved off from the shoulders to keep the weight levels low. This weight distribution gives raise to the bulky middle, thinner shoulders and combined with the pressing and density, gives the modern-day bats that wondrous paradox: Bulky but not heavy. Lots of meat but light.
Some of the edges might have been scrapped by MCC committee but it remains to be seen whether the batsmen feel really hard done by it.