30th Sep 2011
Below is an article in todays Australian paper. Nothing much new, but an interesting read - always interesting to hear what brands have to say!
WITH spring spluttering to life and the footy codes beating hasty retreats from the nation's sports fields, cricket's flannelled armies stand poised to reclaim their place in the sun. And as another summer in the eternal tussle between bat and ball beckons, players young and old are undertaking the time-honoured ritual of fishing the kit out from the shed and inspecting the contents.
The first thing that should be checked over is the hard-working battle axe.
As hurtful as it may sound, bats don't last forever. Heat, damp, dings and balls all take their toll.
If your old blade's had the biscuit, there's a mind-blowing range of bats out there from which to choose. If you're a cutter and driver, a nudger and a nurdler, or just a plain old paddler, there's something to suit your style of play and budget.
But a word of warning: it's a willow jungle out there. These days there are a dizzying array of shapes, weights, stickers and sweet spots. Even bats made specifically for the Twenty20 game.
While the workmanlike willow at the bottom of the market can offer real value in these thrifty times, the models strolling the top shelf invariably trigger a reaction that is part salivation, part palpitation. They're really that good.
So if your last bat purchase was back when Boonie was notching 50s at 30,000 feet and Baggy Greens came with a free moustache trimmer, understand that the game has changed. An arms race that has been under way for decades continues to rage unabated, with power being the holy grail of bat-making.
"The game has changed an enormous amount in the past 40 years," says Gray-Nicolls brand manager Greg Smyth.
"The main changes to the bats has been down to better shaping and management of the willow.
"We needed the equipment to evolve with the game, so there had to be compromises made in the weight of the bats to suit power hitting.
"In the 70s, bats weights were on average 2lb 5oz to 2lb7oz. Now the bats used are 2lb8oz to 2lb11oz."
So with that little history lesson in mind, here is a snapshot of the products available now down at your local batmonger.
Gray-Nicolls E41 Players
If you think Gray-Nicolls has been around forever, it's because it has. Chiselling out its first blade in 1876, a full year before the invention of Test cricket, the British outfit went into Antipodean production a century later.
Down the years, Gray-Nicolls has been associated with some of the kings of the crease, including the Chappell brothers and Matthew Hayden. Now it has new Australian Test No 3 Shaun Marsh in the tent, completing a neat Gray-Nicolls father-and-son double act.
"It's a great story having Geoff Marsh and his son Shaun using Gray-Nicolls bats,"Greg Smyth says. "We are hoping Mitchell can also play at the highest level too."
After years of cricket innovation - including the classic twin scoop - comes the E41 range, with fat 41mm edges which serve to enhance the sweet spot.
If Gray-Nicholls is the WG Grace of bat-makers, Spartan would have to be ... well, Mitchell Johnson.
In fact, the sports company that started life in India 60 years ago has signed the telegenic Aussie left-arm quick to help it boost its profile on the local scene.
The MJ-398 is the company's premier offering, named in honour of their inked ambassador.
"We chased Mitchell as our cricket and fitness ambassador because we felt he has the correct charisma and style that would be a great fit for Spartan," says Spartan spokesman Ian Davis, himself a former Australian Test player.
Slazenger V900 Ultimate
Another old kid on the bat-making block, Slazenger has been servicing batsmen since the early 1900s in England and includes Donald Bradman, Viv Richards and Mark Waugh among its former flagbearers.
These days, new Aussie skipper Michael Clarke flies the banner with his V900, continuing a partnership that he began as a 12-year-old pup.
"We are extremely proud of Michael and his achievements," says brand manager Dene Heath. "He continues to help us refine and define the product to optimal performance."
Puma Calibre 5000
A sports company founded in Germany in 1948, Puma quickly got to grips with the subtleties of the English summer game and is now a real player in the bat market.
Pumas were wielded by master-blaster Adam Gilchrist throughout his stellar career, and now the Calibre 5000 has been designed as a marriage between power and control, which has been brought about by a shift in weight to the bat's core.
"By positioning the bulk of the willow higher up the blade, it has allowed Calibre to bolster the thickness of its edges and enlarge the overall size of the blade," says company spokeswoman Ainslee Thompson.
GM Flare Original LE
Steeped in tradition, proudly English-made and never found in the bargain bin, Gunn and Moore (GM) might just be the Rolls-Royce of cricket bats.
And the heritage brand that pre-dates them all has built up an awesome fan club, including prolific Australian opener Shane Watson. The Flare Original LE is characterised by a light pick-up, high swell position (that's the meaty bit) and generous edges for a broader sweet spot.
The bat comes rolled, oiled and knocked in, but GM's Tony Zucconi stresses traditionalists have not been spurned altogether.
"We do a model, Flare Original, which is not factory prepared for those players who still wish to oil the bat themselves," he says.