Knocking in and preparing Kashmir Willow bats
(And Ebay cricket bats).
If you bat down the order 8,9,10 or 11 like we do - as we're bowlers is it necessary to pay a lot of money for a cricket bat? At our club and others you'll see blokes with very good cricket bats that cannot get the bat on the ball and I find myself asking the question - did you really need to pay top dollar for a piece of quality willow that you cannot use? What is the issue with buying a cheap bat if you're only hitting the ball 3 or 4 times in a game and the 3rd or 4th time it invariably ends up in the hands of the opposition?
So what is the deal with Kashmir bats why are they dismissed so readily, are they really that rubbish?
My own experience of Kashmir bats hasn't been that bad, one bat that wasn't knocked in at all lasted me a few years, although as a bowler I didn't get to use it that much other than in practice, but another bat a Slazenger V1200 which I picked up 2nd hand along with a Fearnley Gold (which I'm still using) lasted years with good service before finally succumbing to a Yorker off of a cheap ball in the nets, the bat was somewhere near 10 years old by my reckoning.
This bat led me to buying another Slazenger V1200 premier off of the much maligned Sports Direct. Again a Kashmir willow bat and dirt cheap at £14.00. Looking at the previous model and wondering why it had lasted so long, I could only deduce that it may have been knocked in properly and that it was covered in face and edge tape, so I looked into what I needed to do in order to knock it in and prepare it. I did some research (See the links at the bottom of the page) and tried to make sense of all the information. There's quite a lot of advice out there which differs, but it almost exclusively deals with top quality willow bats. So, what I've done here is taken the bits that seemed to make sense to me or came up as consistent messages and turned them into something that was useful to me as an advocate of Kashmir willow bats. In addition to the treatment and preparation of Kashmir willow bats I've also looked at how much they differ when buying from shops or off of Ebay from suppliers in India.
So if you fall into any or some of the categories below, this post might be useful to you.
- Someone who can't bat/beginner.
- Tail -ender/bowler.
- Playing cricket for a laugh.
- A parent of a kid that's just starting out.
- Someone who can't justify paying top dollar for a bat.
- Not bothered by the snobbery around labels and names.
This is the bat...
At £14 it seemed a good gamble to give it a go. It comes with some indication that it's pre-knocked in. Looking at the articles on cricket bat manufacturing, this probably means the bat has been compressed rather than struck in the way that 'Knocking in' prepares a bat. I can't imagine that Slazenger do this to thousands of bats, whereas the pressing process seems more likely.
Knocking in is a far more vigorous and affective way as far as I can make out, especially if you do it yourself.
The first time we did this we did it without any prior knowledge and we didn't spend a great deal of time on the process - probably 2 hours. The subsequent time we prepared the same type of bat, we did so with more knowledge and you'll find that account here. The rest of this article discusses the problems we faced and how we overcome them the first time we knocked in a bat.
One of the biggest issues that we came across was the fact that the bat had a toe guard on it - a rubber protector right on the end of the bat which prevents you from knocking in the toe of the bat correctly...
The Toe Guard - Most cheap bats like ours come with a toe guard. When you start to work on the toe of the bat and remember this is the most vulnerable part of the bat, the rubber toe guard prevents you from knocking it in properly. I made the mistake of knocking in the bat every where except for the toe and then once we'd knocked 97% of the bat in, the first aggressive session in the nets saw the toe of the bat cave in on the corner after mis-hitting the ball right on the toe. Interestingly in my research I found an interesting article about Warsop bats where they basically say that every bat is susceptible to being ruined by a Yorker right on the toe, despite having paid £350 for it and having knocked it in properly!
Once Joe's bat was damaged in this way, I had a look at it and then reflected on how much the edges of the bat had changed in shape through the knocking in process. Thinking about it, I thought - if I was to remove the rubber toe guard and knock the toe in properly would the knocking in process even out the now deformed and caved in toe?
I removed the toe and knocked in the toe properly - lightly at first and gradually increasing the weight of the blows and luckily once knocked in the shape of the toe evened out and the caved in section was eliminated - luckily the blow from the ball had only compressed the willow and not actually cracked it.
You can see from the image above that once the toe guard had been re-fitted it was now too big for the shape of the knocked in toe. The knocking in process has compressed the willow substantially, so once the toe guard had been glued back into place using super-glue, then used a Stanley knife to cut the excess off making it neat once more.
Cracks in the willow as part of the knocking in process.
Again this hardly gets mentioned and I found the answers on a forum and the Warsop website, the Warsop website sells them as a positive feature of your bat!!! The forum discussed the idea of the bat being defective and whether you could return the bat I'm guessing from the point of whether it meets the fit for purpose consumer laws? On the forum they were undecided, but most of the discussion centred around the idea that the cracks as Warsop suggests are no big deal and that they can be repaired by applying a little bit of super glue and then rubbing down with fine sandpaper. Follow that up with some bat face tape and the edge tape and your bat hopefully will be ready to go!
Linseed Oil use with a bat covered in bat-face tape.
Easy! Before you put the tape on with your new bat (3 coats or more over several days) make sure the oil has dried out. Our whole process took more than 8 days. If the oil is sitting on the surface of the bat wipe the excess away with tissue paper or a cloth. Make sure though that the oil has been absorbed into the bat before applying the tape otherwise it wont adhere to the surface of the bat. Once the tape is on and when it comes to the point where you need to re-oil it, all you do is oil the back of the bat instead of the batting surface. Don't go over the stickers, oil round them and similar with the splice area where the handle connects to the bat. Lay the bat oil side up and flat when waiting for the oil to seep into the Willow.
Keep the bat over winter in a garage, shed or out-building somewhere where there is some moisture in the air - not indoors where there is central heating. Similarly don't leave the bat in a car on the parcel shelf where the sun will dry it out.
How is the bat holding up? The bat saw my son through a season and I've used it a couple of times and it's doing okay see image below. If you look at the Slazenger link below you'll find an image of a similar more expensive Kashmir bat that wasn't prepared. The bat featured in this post looks in good condition and is going fine.
A more detailed account of the same process done with far more care on a 2nd bat can be found via the links below along with the same process being applied to Ebay bats from India. All three bats will be tested this season 2016 and I'll update these posts below as to how they performed.
Slazenger V1200 Kashmir bat prep, knocking in and test - http://mpafirsteleven.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/knocking-in-preparing-and-road-testing.html
Ebay plain bat from India bat prep, knocking in and test -
Ebay plain bat from India bat prep, knocking in and test -