CRICKET BAT PREPARATION & CARE
A cricket bat is either made from English Willow (Salix Ceraelea), Kashmir Willow or Alternative Willow which in its natural state are soft fibrous reeds. As such it requires preparation before it can be used to strike a cricket ball.
All bats are pressed during production, this pressing gives a degree of conditioning and also enhances the ‘drive’ (or power) of the bat.
‘Knocking in’ is additionally required and a very important part of the bats preparation (minimum 6 hours recommended), during which new bats are repeatedly struck using either a wooden mallet or an old ball to enhance durability and promote ‘drive’.
Continue to look after your bat throughout its life by keeping care of it in a bat cover and safely in your cricket bag when not being used.
During the life span of a cricket, all bats will crack given that a natural piece of wood is struck repeatedly by a fast moving object. It may be worth considering to either use fibreglass tape on the edges of the bat.
Cricket bats are made of natural willow and like all natural materials it is to be expected that the condition of the bat over time will deteriorate during its usage.
Irrespective of brand or finish of a bat, superficial face and edge marks will almost certainly appear, together with indentations or bruising of the natural willow. This happens especially when 'poly type' coverings have been used, when the covering (a man-made material) does not react in exactly the same manner as willow (a natural fibre). In these circumstances there is no need to worry or be concerned as the durability and performance of the bat will be unaffected.
Step 1: Oiling Your Bat (uncovered bats)
All natural faced bats MUST be treated using raw linseed or a specialist cricket bat oil. The main purpose of oiling is to maintain moisture levels within the blade, and hence reduce the chances of cracking and splitting. However, you should be wary of over oiling your bat as this can be as damaging as applying too little oil!
Light coats should be applied to the face, edge, toe and back of the blade - taking care to avoid the stickers or logos and the splice area. Allow the bat to dry.
After 24 hours remove any oil that has not be absorbed. Using a very fine sand paper (+180) give the face of the bat a light sanding and then reapply a light coat of oil to the face only.
THREE STEPS TO BAT PREPARATION
Generally two or three coats should be sufficient. Each coat should be allowed to dry into the blade in a slightly elevated horizontal position from handle down before the next light coat is applied.
All bats are pressed, however 'knocking in' is VITAL. This is the process by which the fibres of the willow in the face and edges are compressed together to form a barrier, which protects the bat against the impact of the ball. Effective 'knocking in' will significantly improve the performance and increase the lifespan of the bat.
The 'knocking in' process should be undertaken carefully, using a special bat mallet or an old, quality cricket ball. The bat should be repeatedly struck (with gradually increasing force) in all areas where one would normally expect to hit the ball, this conditioning must be performed with patience. Particular attention should be given to the edges, although the edges or toe should not be struck directly at right-angles to the blade as this would be likely to cause damage. This stage should take in the region of six hours, although it may vary as every bat is different.
The next step is to graduate to the use of the bat to hit short catches with an old, quality cricket ball. However, if the seam marks the blade, it is necessary to return to 'Stage one' for a further conditioning. This stage should be performed for at least another hour.
Step 3: Playing In
Once these steps have been taken, the bat should be ready for use in the nets against an old soft cricket ball. Ideally play in a defensive manner and avoid genuine fast bowling. If the seam of the ball marks the face of the bat resume the ‘knocking in’ process.
Apply a facing, Anti-scuff or similar cover to the bat for ultimate protection. This does not negate the requirement to 'knock in' the bat. The cover may assist the durability of the bat, but under no circumstances will it totally prevent surface damage.
YOU SHOULD NEVER:
1. Never over oil your cricket bat.
2. Do not stand the bat in oil.
3. Do not stand the bat in a vertical position after oiling.
4. Do not hit the edges at right angles.
5. Do not hit the back of the bat.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD A BAT BE USED IN MATCH CONDITIONS UNLESS THE RECOMMENDED STEPS HAVE BEEN COMPLETED, INCLUDING AT LEAST 6 HOURS KNOCKING IN.