Cricket Batting Pads - The Buyer's Guide
Cricket Batting Pads are an essential component of any cricket player's protective equipment. If you've never played cricket before, just ask anyone who has played what it feels like to be hit on the lower leg by a cricket ball, and they'll let you know exactly why batting pads are by no means an optional piece of equipment. Batting pads provide you with significant protection against cricket balls. In selecting the right batting pads for you, it is crucial to take into account factors such as range of movement, weight, comfort and durability.
Cricket batting pads are generally made up of 7 different features. Each of these features offer varing levels of protection, comfort and durability depending on the materials used and in some cases the complexity of their construction. Here we will aim to quickly outline the various features and highlight how variations may affect the batsman.
The face of cricket batting pads generally takes up the largest surface area of the pad and is usually made up of a number of vertically separated sections. These vertical sections allow the pad to wrap around the lower leg, making the cricket batting pads easier to run with and avoid interference with the bat or gloves. Traditionally each section would comprise a cane shaft for stiffness with any number of padding materials to act as shock absorbers.
A cricket batting pad's knee roll has two main purposes. Firstly to offer improved protection around the vulnerable knee joint and secondly allow the batting pads to flex and bend in conjunction with the rest of leg. In order to achieve this, the knee roll is divided up into a number of horizontal sections, which unlike the face don't usually incorporate a stiff material but do include the padding material.
The area on the cricket batting pad above the knee roll is known as the top hat, which serves to protect the lower thigh from ball impacts. Being that this area has a lot more muscle to protect the bone; the top hat tends to offer only limited protection in comparison to other areas.
More expensive batting pads will be setup for batters with a specific dexterity, ensuring the wing design offers protection to the most at risk areas, whilst not adding weight by adding protection where it's not needed. In the case of cheaper pads, they will tend to be ambidextrous, capable of protecting batsmen of either dexterity, but may prove heavier.
Traditionally cricket batting pads were secured to the leg using leather straps and metal buckles, which proved heavy and in many cases uncomfortable. Modern batting pad straps are cushioned, much wider and make use of Velcro to provide a secure, comfortable fit. Most pads still feature three straps, although some brands have mnoved to two in more recent years.
The instep is usually designed to protect the lower shin and ankles, and in most cases is reinforced to protect the batting pads from wear as a result of contact with both the batsman's shoes as well as in some cases the ground.
In order to maximise comfort as well as provide extra padding in the case of unusually high impacts many cricket batting pads incorporate additional bolsters on the batting pads interior to provide additional comfort in terms of a softer contact as well as greater air-flow. In some cases to offer increased cleanliness, the inner padding can be removed and put in the washing machine.
Leather has traditionally been used to form most of cricket batting pads outer layer. However, recent materials developments has led to the use of cheaper, lighter, more durable and easier to clean materials.
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated to PVC is a synthetic plastic material sometimes used as a replacement for leather on some cricket bating pads due to the fact that it is exceptionally durable, cheap, easily worked and very easy to keep clean. In more recent years PVC has fallen out of favour due to its high chemical resistance which makes it very difficult to recycle.
Polyurethane has now been broadly adopted as the preferred replacement for Leather, offering many of the same benefits of PVC but being more readily recyclable. PU also forms the base of many of the modern high density foams used as light weight shock absorbers.
Cane as a stiff and fairly light wood has been the material of choice for providing more rigid support and protection to face sections of batting pads since the game was conceived and is still in use today, particularly at the cheaper end of the market.
To add to the stiffness offered by the cane inserts, fibreglass reinforcement is sometimes applied. This addition results in greater stiffness and durability.
Often referred to by their trade names (Kevlar, Nomex, Technora and Twaron), these synthetic fibres are famous for their strength-to-weight ratios and Kevlar in particular is used in bulletproof vests. Their strength, shock absorption and light weight properties that make them particularly useful in cricket batting pads. Either used in conjunction with, or completely replacing the cane rods, these fibres can be mixed with glass fibre to create composite materials with both stiffness and superb shock absorption properties whilst being of very low weight.
Much of the protection in modern cricket batting pads comes in the form of cotton wadding. Made from the leftovers of the weaving industry and looking not unlike what you might find in your vacuum cleaner, this cheap option actually provides fantastic shock absorption and impact protection. The only downside being that it is relatively heavy compared to some modern materials.
High Density Foam
The term high density foam covers a large variety of materials with a range of different properties. Many HD foams are derived from PU or Polyethylene (sometimes referred to as Plastazote) based plastics mixed with blowing agents which create bubbles in the material. It is the size and density of these bubbles that create the unique properties of a particular foam. For example, a foam with very small bubbles which are very close together may offer great shock absorption from high speed impacts but very limited flexibility; where as a foam with large bubbles would offer greater flexibility but would have limited shock absorption. In many circumstances foams are used in combination to make use of a variety of characteristics. The single biggest benefit of high density foams are their exceptionally low weight as they are largely made up of air. All of these aspects make HD foam the obvious choice as padding for cricket batting pads and often features more frequently the higher up through the ranges you go.
d3o and Smart Fabrics
"d3o" is the first commercial use of what is termed a "smart fabric" in cricket batting pads. Currently only licensed to Gunn and Moore in the cricket market, the material in its normal form feels very much like rubber, being fairly soft and very pliable. It is only when an impact force is applied that you notice anything different. d3o responds to shock by becoming completely rigid, and for a very brief period offering the same protection of a more solid material like hard plastic. This means that for majority of the time you have a product that will stretch and flex in response to your body, but the instant it feels an impact acts like a shield dissipating the shock away from the impact. d3o's additional benefit in this respect is that is can offer the same amount of shock absorption in a much thinner piece of material.
Development vs. Inertia
Although the design of cricket batting pads is not restricted by the sports governing body, in practise a number of aspects have proven notably resistant to change.
The knee roll for example is no longer a necessary feature with modern material, but due to the fact that many umpires find it useful for judging how high a ball is bouncing (and whether it will go onto hit the stumps in an lbw decision), those that have tried using cricket batting pads knee-roll-less designs have reported being given out lbw on an disproportionate number of occasions. This in turn has resulted in design inertia in this area although some brands such as Puma, with their Flextech design are trying to evolve the batting pad knee roll into a form that can better serve the batsmen, whilst still offering the umpire a useful visual aid.
Modern umpires have learned to make use of not only their eyes but also the ears when making judgement decisions, and have through experience come to expect the impacting the bat or pads to make a specific sound. The use of modern materials in some cricket batting pads has resulted in change in the sound that is made when a ball hits the batting pads leading to some batsmen being given out caught when the ball has brushed their batting pads. Some cutting edge batting pads featuring a 100% HD foam construction are particularly notable for suffering at the hands of umpires, but with a weight saving of up to 50% only you are able to ultimately decide whether the benefits outweigh the potential costs.
As with many products, the actual size and fitting of cricket batting pads can vary between brands and it is highly unlikely that any guide will ever prove 100% successful. Unfortunately many of us don't always have the luxury of being able to visit our local cricket specialist, so we have compiled this table based on information from a number of different brands to provide you with an industry average guide to cricket batting pad sizes. Please ensure you measure from the top of your foot's instep arch to the middle of the knee. Ultimately, when the pad is rested on the top of the foot, the knee roll should always be positioned over the knee. If this is not the case, the size is incorrect.
|Leg Length (cm)||Batting Pads Size|
Like most protection products, as you go up through the cricket batting pads ranges and note the increase in price, you'll be asking So what am I getting for my money?. In this case, as you spend more you will see some increase in protection to cope with the higher balls speeds, but in most cases what you will see is a weight reduction and increased comfort levels. Weight reductions will be made through the introduction of HD foam padding and other modern materials, while comfort levels will be increased using wide straps, improved ventilation and the use of softer, but not necessarily more durable materials. In addition you may see the introduction of some specialist features such as washable inserts as well as finer detailing and more expensive materials.
Most modern cricket batting pads feature PVC or PU faces which can be easily wiped clean with a damp cloth. The padded inners will slowly deteriorate, picking up a selection of dirt and sweat. In this case removable and washable inners are ideal, but in their absence we recommend ensuring the pads are left in a warm, well ventilated place until they are completely dry. Initially brush off any surface dirt, then using a warm, mildly soapy cloth scrub out any stains. Fabric refreshers such as Fabreeze can help limit bad odours from long term use.