Updated: Sep 2, 2021
Are you in the market to buy a new cricket bat? Don’t know where to start? Price can be an indicator of the level of bat you are buying, but it's not everything, so here's a few pointers on how to select the right bat for your son or daughter.
Age What age group is the player? If it's U10's or U11's, don’t over think it. The kids play with a rubber covered ball. As long as you select the right size, get something that is light in weight and has the coolest stickers. (Hint: the coolest stickers will depend on your child’s favourite player!). So if it’s for a surprise present, let the guy at the store know who their favourite player is.
Size When we talk size, we're talking length. It is important that when your child is in a comfortable crouched / sprung batting stance, that they can tap the bat on the ground near their back toe comfortably, whilst being able to keep their head / eyes straight (eye level). If the bat is too short, they will need to lean over with a tilted head to tap the bat. If the bat is too long, they will either not be able to be in a comfortable crouched position or the bat will be on the ground well behind their back foot. The player should be able to move the bat through a slow full swing cycle (ie front foot shot) whilst remaining in a comfortable crouched / sprung position.
Weight When it comes to selecting a junior cricket bat weight is incredibly important. A cricket bat is something you should definitely not "grow into". Junior cricket is about developing good technique, and not banging sixes and those little arms need to be able to hold the bat whilst getting that front elbow up nice and high. An exercise to test and make sure that the bat weight is not too heavy is to have the player (gloves on) hold the bat with their top hand only (bottom hand tucked behind your back) and flow through a series of slow full swing cycles (front foot shot). Remember to pause between each swing cycle and hold the bat in a stationary crouched batting stance, bat held up behind the player level to the ground as if watching the bowler, waiting for the bowler to release the ball. This will test the forearm, wrist and hand strength of the player. If they cannot hold the bat up in that stationary crouched batting stance comfortably, then the bat is too heavy. Pick Up / Balance Associated with weight is the "pick up". This is how heavy the bat feels when you're in a batting stance and you lift the bat or "pick it up" behind you as you're about to play a shot. The pick up is obviously affected firstly by the dry weight of the bat, but then is influenced by the "profile" or shape of the bat. A bat with a very low middle, will have the thickest part of the bat further towards the toe of the bat. If you think back to how leverage works in science class, the further the heaviest part of the bat is towards the toe and away from the hands, the heavy it will feel to pick up, and likewise, a high middle will feel light to pick up. When the kids get older and start picking their own bats, this becomes a personal preference, but for now, choose something that is evenly balanced... not too high, not too low. Most Junior bats are going to be somewhere in the middle anyway. Wood Type Kashmir Willow or English Willow? For U10's and U11's, they just will be light Kashmir willow. They will probably even be covered in some kind of white "face protector". It's perfectly fine for hitting a rubber ball around and it's significantly cheaper. Once you're hitting the red leather ball (U12's), make sure it's English willow. Wood Grade Now grading can be quite subjective. There is plenty of content on the internet about the grading of English willow, but here it is broad brushed.... the more grains you have, the straighter they are and the least amount of discolouration (streaks) when looking at the face of the bat.... the better the grade, the older and harder the wood, the more spring it should have. Now with that said, this is where you can get stung on price. Whilst many nice long straight grains looks pretty, it gets the price tag to match. So yes, it can be a very good indicator but it's not everything (see PING below). As long as you've ticked the boxes on weight etc as per the above sections, just be comfortable with the budget you can afford when weighing up the grade of English Willow you choose. Remember, player ability will outperform the number of grains you have in your bat. Be a little cautious over bat willow grading, don’t just take what's on the label as being gospel. Look at the wood yourself and compare it to other bats in the same price range. Ping Now if willow grading is a grey area, Ping is delving into the dark arts. A bat salesman will use a mallet, a professional player might flick a bat with their finger nails, you could hit a ball on a string. The bat PING is how much reflex the wood has when it makes contact with the ball. Usually the higher the grade of wood, the higher chance you'll have of having a much older stronger piece of wood, with more ping. But, there have been professional players known to have scored cricket scores, who select terrible looking pieces of wood that are just harder or have more ping. This area is seriously subjective and in all honesty is probably more about "sales" than there actually being any massive difference in bat performance. What I mean is, if you had three new bats all of the same grade wood, I would be absolutely surprised if the cricketer next door would be able to pick any difference at all. What you will pick the difference in, is between a new bat and an old bat. As bats are used and age, the wood compresses. You can have the highest grade and most expensive bat in the world, and after a number of seasons it will "go flat" or lose its PING as the wood compresses. If you want to feel the difference in ping, get your hands on an old bat from your club gear bag, and compare the bounce of ball on that, compared to a new bat. But like I said.... new bat vs new bat... in the same grade willow.... good luck on anyone being able to prove the difference.
WOW Factor Cricket is a game that is played largely between the ears. Having confidence in your batting is by far the largest contributor to how you perform. Just ask the countless batsmen who have scored 100 after wearing a new set of gloves, or a new shoes etc. So in saying that, if you feel that you have a great bat, it's going to add to your confidence and in turn your performance. So to the parents out their selecting the next bat for your kids, the brand, the stickers and the bat their favourite Australian cricketer uses, or what "Johnny" at school has, might have a big influence on how good they think the bat is. If you're in the store and you can see their eyes light up at the bat that they think as the WOW factor.... that could be all they need to top up their confidence enough to want to go to the nets and train for a little longer or try a little harder. Confidence is key. To sum it up So there's a lot of information in the above, but don't over think it. As a parent of a junior cricketer I'm sure we're all in the same boat when I say... How good is it when we see our kids confident, engaged and enjoying their sport in the Australian summer. No matter what you buy, it's amazing what a new bat does to their confidence. And look, if you're still unsure, just ask the President at your Club and they’ll be able to point you to the resident "Bat Nufty"... every club has a minimum of one 😊.