Friend and fellow blazer owning founder member Gareth Boucher who owns the highly recommended cricket bat and kit supplier Williamson Boucher recently posted an image on Twitter highlighting the perils of buying a used bat online.
The wholly grail as far as determining the quality of a bat with your eyes is the number of grains on a cricket bat.
The grains on a cricket bat are vertical lines and are perfectly natural. Typically a good cricket bat will have about 6 to 12 grains on it, with each grain represents 1 year of growth of that particular willow tree.
The number of grains have a direct correlation with the quality of the cricket bat, with the better quality bats having the higher number of grains.
Another important factor to consider is the width of the grains – too narrow and the bat may break easily (and be heavier), too wide and the bat may take a long time to reach its optimum performance level.
No huge surprise then that the pros tend to use bats with 9 – 12 grains (and get through several a season), whereas a club cricketer will generally find 6 to 9 grains more than adequate.
In the above the true grains are the wider, not so straight grains, with the 9 straight grains added to the bat by a rather devious process where a thin veneer is harvested off a better quality bat, giving the impression (and price) of a better quality bat.
It will be hard to spot this on a photo so where possible try and check the bat out before you buy it, ask for close up photos of the edges (the fact you ask may well ring a warning bell to the seller). Most used bats are sold having been ‘recently refurbished’ in which case ask for information on who refurbished the bat. The modern trend of adding scuff sheets and bat tape to the edges of bats helps mask any doctoring so bear that in mind as well. In theory you could try and match the grains through the toe with the grains on the front of the bat, but a toe guard would make the hard, especially before buying.
Other Things To Consider When Choosing A Bat
English Willow v Kashmir Willow: when the tree is grown in England, it will be an English Willow Bat which are accepted as the highest quality bats, are a popular choice with the professionals and are the most expensive. When the tree is grown in India it will be a Kashmir Willow and the different environmental conditions affect the quality of the wood, making this a much cheaper bat, mainly because the grains on these bats are often very thin and interspersed with each other (as opposed to straight and vertical with an English Willow). They are also less prominent so the bat does not have the same look. Again post purchase it may go really dark after oiling, but again scuff sheets will negate that as an option.
Grains are like Wine: the more grains, the older the bat, the better the vintage. But the greater the cost and as mentioned above is more likely to not last as long. However …… it is not always a good thing to have more Grains!
If an English Willow tree grows much slower than normal the thickness of the bark of the tree is lower than the average. This means a tree that grows slowly over a period of 10 years will have a much thinner bark as compared to other trees growing at a moderate rate so the wood taken for making a bat from this tree will have more number of grains.
Since the tree grew slowly, the fibres of the wood are also more compact and tightly packed. This makes the wood hard. Therefore, bats made from such wood are hard and also often need less knocking in but are more brittle and break easily.
Back to the wine: if you are only going to consume one bottle then a higher quality is often a nice treat, but if the plan is to consume on mass with your mates over a pizza a lesser quality generally makes sense. So with your bat, think about your own standard of play, style of play, are you going to lend it to mates (please don’t or do as Chris does and carry an older bat with him to lend). Whilst a Grade 1, unblemished bat, with 9+ grains looks lovely and will enhance your game the reality for the majority of us is that a 6 grain bat will suffice.
Manufactures offer a range of different quality bats and some like Williamson Boucher provide the option to customise your bat by choosing the size, weight, grade, handle style, strike zone, blade face and other options.