In addition to materials and size specifications, you should also consider the following design features when selecting cricket bats:
Covered or Uncovered Face
The uncovered look means that the grain of the cricket bat is showing, whereas the covered look means that the blade of the bat is not immediately showing [although you may be able to see the blade through transparent protective coating]. Each of the above will appear differently on cricket bats, but most importantly of all, you should note that the bat's performance will not be hindered. Protective coating [anti-scuff] is, on balance, advised in most cases in order to add maximise protection to the face of the cricket bat. This should prevent additional moisture being absorbed into the wood, as well as to help bind surface cracks together.
The Number of Grains on the Bat
There are many views surrounding grains on a cricket bat. Generally speaking though, the number of grains on a cricket bat is something that can be left to the discretion of the individual. The number of grains will often differ from bat to bat. A cricket bat between 6 and 12 grains is a good indicator of quality willow. Cricket bats with 6 grains, for example, are likely to be slightly softer than 10-12 grains and therefore take longer to knock-in and reach optimal performance initially. However, please note there are some extremely good premium range bats with lower grains.
- Grade 1+ [A]
highest quality of English willow, historically used for the manufacturer's sponsored players, but increasingly being rolled-out to top end bats for the public across specialist stores. The grains are straight and even, the wood unbleached and there should be minimal to no marking or discolouration on the bat face.
- Grade 1 - G1 [A]
top quality English Willow. Good straight grain structure and unbleached with minimal marking or discolouration in the face.
- Grade 2 - G2 [B]
Unbleached English Willow with some irregular grain patterns and some blemishes/colouring across the blade.
- Grade 3 - G3 [C]
Usually unbleached English Willow with irregular grain pattern and some marking and discolouration in the blade.
- Grade 4 - G4
English Willow usually bleached and often non oil with a covering to the face of the bat.
The Shape, Size and Bow of the Cricket Bat
This is normally a matter of personal preference. Some players prefer crickiet bats with a large bow where as others don't. Increasingly, professional players' preference for a larger bow and thicker edges to better meet the rigors of the modern game, is being reflected in the designs available to the general public. The size of the bow can have an impact on the pick-up of the cricket bat, as an increased bow can often result in the cricket bat having a heavier pick up. Some bows are higher or lower down the bat depending on batsmen's hitting style, or to reflect the pitches which you play on. A low bouncing wicket in Northern England or India may suit a lower bow compared to the dry climate and bouncy pitches of Perth, Western Australia.
A Toe Guard
The toe on all cricket bats can be vulnerable to breakages. It can be better prevented through fitting a toe guard. Many cricket bats now come with a toe guard already attached. A cricket bat is designed to strike the ball 6-8 inches up from the toe, in the centre of the blade. When batsmen face "Yorker" deliveries at the toe end, the impact of a moving bat meeting the speed of the ball can be very high, thereby causing the wood to dent or split. As a result it would be advisable to fit a toe guard to reduce the risk of breakage.
A Natural Finish
This is similar to an uncovered face, with the willow not covered by an anti-scruff cover or face tape. Most of the top-end bats offer this natural, traditional finish. Some of the lower grades of willow maybe bleached to artificially replicate the colour of high-quality willow.
Twenty/Twenty Style Cricket Bat
This cricket bat has been designed for bigger hitting, particularly in 20/20 matches. The cricket bat has a shorter blade and a longer handle to allow batsmen increased leverage to make those big shots required for this format of the game. Mongoose are the market leaders in this niche area. Other brands use more subtle techniques, including longer blade/shorter handle bats, or narrowing width of cricket bat slightly to further reduce weight and increase bat speed.
When you are trying a cricket bat, position yourself in your normal stance as you would at the crease. Then simply pick the cricket bat up as you would as if the bowler was about to deliver the ball. When you pick the cricket bat up, note how the bat feels in your hands, i.e. is it light? Is it heavy? Where is the balance of the bow? Is it a lower middle or a higher middle? More generally can you hold the cricket bat in one hand, when stretched out in front of you?
This has implications on your choice of cricket bat as you may want a heavier cricket bat for striking that feels like it has a comparatively light pick up. It is unlikely for instance that you would want to follow the great Sachin Tendulkar by choosing a 3lb plus cricket bat. Unless you have strong arms and wrists, your speed to pick-up and follow through may become too slow with such heavy cricket bats.
When trying out cricket bats, it would be advisable foy you to wear a pair of batting gloves. That way you gain a reliable insight into how the cricket bat actually feels in your hands. It would also be advisable for you to practice some shots without a ball, to see if you can use the bat effectively.
Short or Long Handle
When looking at senior cricket bats you will see that they come in two forms; Short Handle (SH) or Long Handle (LH). It would normally be advisable for players to choose a short handled cricket bat for increased control. However if you are tall, i.e. above 6 foot 2 inches it might be advisable for you to select a long handled cricket bat, they are however, much less readily available in the shops due to niche demand. Indeed, many tall players are opting for Short Handles. Junior sizes range all the way from size 1 (smallest) to size 6 (largest) with a transition "harrow" size for teenagers not yet big enough to take a short handle. Some manufacturers also offer an "Academy" size which offer an extra step between the traditional Harrow and Short Handle.