Cricket dates back many, many years, and as you can imagine, just like most things in life, it has gone through many changes, updates, developments and growth. Games have been shortened, rules adopted, and boundaries brought in closer, not wanting to be left behind, the cricket bat has also evolved.
The history of the cricket bat
In the beginning, there was cricket, and cricket was a gentleman’s game enjoyed by many, especially those in England where the game came into being in the 17th century. The first cricket bats looked nothing like they do today they were closer in resemblance to a hockey stick, almost unimaginable. But it’s true; They were designed with thin shafts and thicker bottoms, the lower part of the bat being used to hit the ball.
Bats slowly started morphing, later looking more like the bats used today, however, until 1771 the width of cricket bats was not regulated. Shock White took advantage of this and played with a bat as full as the distance between the two outer stumps, somewhat unfair, and not very gentlemanly. After the fat chance, White took, the bat width was restricted to 10.795cm which was followed in 1835 by a bat length limit of 96.52cm. As decades passed, the choice of wood used for cricket bats changed from English willow to sapwood, making them lighter. The blade too was a more refined shape.
Originally cricket bats were fabricated from one piece of wood, but this proved to be unsuitable for the game as the bats often shattered or broke, convincing them to be a bit brittle at the base of the handle. This issue was tackled by making the handle separately and splicing it to the blade; modern bats are still basically made like this. These days bat handles have a “vein” of rubber running through them that acts as a shock absorber, preventing vibrations being carried through the bat to hands and arms when hitting the ball, this development in the design is continuously being tweaked.
Other than Shock White, other Batsmen pushed the limits when it came to batting restrictions. Dennis Lillee, an Australian cricketer, used an aluminium bat until complaints arose that it was causing damage to the ball. Another Australian, Ricky Ponting, was the first to use a bat produced by Kookaburra, which had carbon fibre as support for the spine and blade, and was believed to aid in bat endurance. This too was soon banned by the ICC as they had been advised it was more powerful and not readily accessible to all players, and in turn, unfair. Another design that adds power is a slight curve, or bow, in the blades front edge, this is often seen in bats from Pakistan or India. When the T20 came about a particular bat was designed for the game with a shorter blade and more extended handle.