The issue of bat-size regulation came up, as expected, at the meeting of the Marylebone Cricket Club’s World Cricket Committee at Lord’s on Monday and Tuesday (July 11 and 12), and the group decided to introduce certain limitations in an attempt to reduce bat’s edge over ball.
Why is bat size an issue?
The bats we see in the modern game are well within the restrictions – in terms of width and length – as laid down by the laws of the game. However, the depth (exaggerated middles in the back add power to strokes) and the edge (wide, a third of the width of the blades at times) having undergone major modifications, and limitations, the committee felt, needed to be put in place.
Read the details of Law 6 (The Bat).
It’s just a recommendation, of course, and the proposal is that the maximum thickness of the edge should be between 35mm and 40mm – David Warner’s bat, for example, has an edge of around 55mm – while the depth should not exceed 65mm under any circumstances.
Using advanced technology, new-age bat manufacturers have managed to pack in more and more wood into the dimensions (length and width) that a bat must adhere to. But thicker bats and edges mean that it’s become easier to clear the boundaries and even send balls off the edge of the bat into the distance.
And though there has been no injury sustained by fielders or umpires specifically because of the club-like bats, it is a real fear, and umpires have, of late, been given the arm shield to ward off missiles that might flow head-wards.
A bigger, more powerful bat also doesn’t necessarily mean a heavier bat. Bats typically weigh around 1.1 to 1.4 kg, although there is no standard.
Sachin Tendulkar famously used a bat that weighed 1.47 kg (3lb 2oz), while Don Bradman’s was less than a kilo and much lighter than the average for his time. While a lighter bat can help the ball travel faster and lends itself to more varied shot-making, a heavier bat affords more raw power, especially for in the hands of a powerful striker of the ball. MS Dhoni, for example, uses a bat that weighs approximately 2lb 6oz, while Warner’s hunk of wood, though it looks massive, weighs just under 3lb. So, more wood, but not such a dramatic increase in weight.
Gallery: Cricket bats – Evolution and innovation
While on the subject, we thought we’d scout for thoughts on the subject from different angles.
The Bowler: Irfan Pathan
I do agree that the demand of Twenty20 cricket is runs. The main reason for that is the skill batsmen have developed, the innovations they have come up with. The bowlers have come up with slower bouncers, wide yorkers, split-finger slower ones and so on and the batsmen have kept pace and evolved in their thinking. It’s more down to that than bat sizes. People like Garry Sobers have hit six sixes in an over too, but at that time, the bat sizes weren’t huge. Whatever little benefit the bowlers will have, we will cherish it, but it’s important to note how the pitches have developed. There used to be a time when pitches were underprepared. I don’t know how batsmen in those times did it, but nowadays, pitches are more even and you know if the ball pitches in one area, it will come at a particular bounce. You get used to the pace and bounce, with pitches getting flatter. That’s fine for me, because this is the way cricket goes, and I am all for it, even as a bowler. The basics have to remain the same.
The Batsman: Mohammad Kaif
It’s more to do with the skills than anything else. Especially in the subcontinent, where there is not much pace for the faster bowlers. If I weigh 70 kgs and am capable of lifting a certain weight, it is not just about using a heavy bat, you have to swing, use power, and play 360-degree shots. I feel it has got to with the modern-day batsman’s ability to think from a bowler’s perspective. Batsmen have gone way ahead in terms of approaching the game, worked harder on their skills or innovations to hit all over the park.
When I was growing up, I was told use lighter bats because they are easy for stroke-making and heavy bats are tough to control. If someone is bowling at around 140kph, the bottom part of the bat has to travel faster so as to meet the bat at a certain speed, so the lighter bats would aid that. Especially on the pitches of Australia and South Africa, I was advised to use light bats by Greg Chappell to avoid injuries. When Sachin (Tendulkar) had the tennis elbow issue, Chappell advised him to cut on his his bat weight as he used to bat for long and faced fatigue issues with his arms and elbow.
Players like Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, they have excellent skills. They are well aware of what the bowler is going to bowl, mentally they’ve outplayed the bowlers with pre-meditated shots. It is the bowlers who have become defensive, they are just looking to survive and contain runs. Only bowlers like (Lasith) Malinga, Mustafizur (Rahman) and Jasprit Bumrah now, who have both the skill and X-factor, have been surviving.
It does help to a certain degree to have the bottom heavier than the top of the bat, because in places like India, where the ball just skids on, the lower part of the bat does much more work, so one would want to leave more wood in that area.
The Umpire: Vineet Kulkarni
Issues around the safety of umpires has come up in the past few years, especially with the way the game is being played. Some of us are doing it individually, while the ICC and individual boards too are paying attention to it. I have even heard that some manufacturers are working on designing safety gears specifically for the umpires. The helmet was a makeshift arrangement; you need something that is suited to the job that we do. Personally, I feel the weight of the helmet is a big issue, and the clanking noise it makes next to the ears.
If you asked me two years ago, I’d say T20 is the reason why batsmen are playing such attacking shots. But now, that style of playing has gone into ODIs too. There was an umpire (John Ward) who was in fact injured in a multi-day game in India. The size of the bats plays a role, but I won’t attribute the whole thing to that alone. The strength of the general batsman has gone up and in limited-overs cricket, they are capable of improvising a lot. We have to be alert all the time, so we work on our fitness a lot more these to improve our reflexes – 99% of the time, I will be able to duck a ball that is hit straight at me. But if you see the injuries that have taken place, most were deflected off the stumps or the bowler’s hand.
The TV Pro: Harsha Bhogle
I don’t know if lesser fours and sixes will necessarily happen because of reducing bat sizes because they can make the bats differently. The bat-makers are very sharp, they will come up with something. As far as I’m concerned, mis-hits cannot go for sixes. It would mean the batsmen have been beaten in the air, but if it still goes for a six, then the bowlers would have nothing left to do. I would like to see this accompanied by boundary ropes being pushed as far back as possible. It’s ridiculous, they’ve brought in the boundary ropes far too much. You may say fours and sixes are great, but after a while, there’s nothing left to watch. You can’t just keep wanting fours and sixes every single time. I might be in a minority, but the truth is I feel if all we are giving people over a course of time is fours and sixes, then they will get tired of it. In Bangalore, for example, 200 is the par score (in T20s)! It has to be a part of the process to restore balance between bat and ball, and I would like boundary ropes to be pushed back as far as possible.
The Bat-maker: Vyapak Mehra (Stanford Cricket Industries)
We at Stanford have not made any dramatic changes to our bats that you see in the market. But the international players, who use our bats, have their own choices, so in those cases, we make it according to their needs. More than the thickness, players stress on the weight specifications. Lendl Simmons, for example, uses a very light bat, where as Dwayne Smith likes the heavier ones. For T20 cricket, batsmen mostly ask us to make light-weight bats with longer handles. They obviously want to hit certain shots which are difficult to pull off with a very heavy bat. In fact, even those who buy our bats from the market prefer lighter bats these days. So, for T20 specifically, some batsmen use different bats, as per their requirement. Light bats with thick edges are used the most, but Dwayne Smith always uses a heavy one. Smaller players often approach us to make bats for them but in case of the more famous cricketers, like Simmons, Smith, (Tillakaratne) Dilshan or Brendan Taylor, we send them samples, and if they like it, they sign a contract and give us feedback on what they exactly want. We have our own lathe machines in our factory in Meerut where all the bats are made.
The Journalist: Lawrence Booth
This debate is proof – as if it were needed – that you’ll never please all the pundits all the time. If there aren’t enough sixes, the cricket’s boring; if there are too many, the cricket’s devalued. Actually, what MCC are doing makes sense to me. There have been some faintly hysterical reactions to their plans, along the lines of ‘Yes, a return to the thrilling days of two runs an over is just what cricket needs!’ In reality, the limits they suggest will not affect that many players. Very few have bats that fit the dimensions they’re talking about.
Their concern centres on one of the fundamental injustices of the game: the miscue that carries off an overly thick edge for six. In what way is that good cricket? I think we patronise fans when we say that they need a non-stop diet of sixes to feel sated. Most are smarter than that. But there are also genuine safety concerns. An Israeli umpire was killed two years ago when a straight-drive was deflected into his neck. Bruce Oxenford now officiates clutching a weird arm-and-face guard. Sixes can be wonderful things. But so can elegant cover-drives for four. And we’re in danger of losing that mix.
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