Friday, December 25, 2015

Knocking in, preparing and road testing Kashmir Willow bats - Slazenger V1200 Pemier cricket bat

This blog has now been moved to my new website.

Click the link to check it out.

This is one of a number of blog posts where I'm looking at the Kashmir bats and whether they really are that bad? There's loads of opinion out there about how bad they are, but very little in the way of explanations and evidence. I'm testing out three this season, knocking them in over the winter and then I'll be using them in the nets and over the season in 2016. (See bottom of the blog for the other 2 bats).

Slazenger V1200 Premier cricket bat shop bought here in the UK

This bat is one of three that I've bought over the winter here in the UK to test out how good or bad Kashmir Willow is. This bat is the only one that I've bought from an established retailer, the other two bats (See links at the bottom of the page) are cheap Ebay bats sold as English Willow. This bat at least claims to be Kashmir Willow and I know what I'm buying. Why am I doing this? See here.

If you have a look at the link above you'll have seen we've previously had one of these bats that we partly knocked in and despite this we've been happy with its performance and wear. With that in mind I thought I'd buy another one specifically for myself and spend the winter preparing it as if it were a good quality bat.

There's a lot of conflicting advice and opinion on the internet on the subject of knocking in bats, primarily it's with reference to preparing top quality bats and not ropey cheap Kashmir bats. I questioned one blokes advice that was at odds with Julian Millichamps and I then got into a discussion about Kashmir bats and he was totally dismissive of them saying that they were a complete waste of time and that you shouldn't even knock them in. I kind of get the impression that there's an element of snobbery involved in some people's choices of bat and that many of the opinions regarding Kashmir willow are based on hearsay rather experience. With regards the comment and advice about not knocking in Kashmir willow bats, that seems to me on the basis of recent experience to be nonsense. The image here is a £25 Slazenger bat that was used sparingly over a season primarily against spin bowling during practices, that wasn't knocked in and it now looks like this...
Slazenger Bat - that wasn't knocked in.

Slazenger V1200 Premier cricket bat

The specifications for this bat are... 
Slazenger V1200 Premier Cricket Bat
This Slazenger V1200 Premier Cricket Bat is perfect for an aggressive stroke player due to the premium Kashmir willow construction, providing long lasting durability. 

Cricket Bat
Kashmir willow construction 
Toe guard
Octopus grip

Lightweight  - *Hmm - 2lb 11oz - not massively lightweight.
Slazenger branding

For our full range of
Sports Equipment Sale visit SportsDirect
Product code: 851032
Day One. (20th Sept).One of the things that comes up in one of the  videos I watched is the initial rounding of the edges of the bat. On their video they suggest not doing it (Certainly at the initial stages) with a bat mallet. Instead they suggest that you use a piece of rounded wood (I’ve used my wife’s rolling pin) to rub down the sharp edges rather than smashing them in with a bat mallet. So, unsure whether you do this post oiling or pre-oiling, I’ve done one edge so far prior to oiling and the wood felt pretty hard. So without any oil this rounding process was pretty difficult, but with a little exertion though, there was some softening of the edge.

After doing the one edge I’ve then coated the front face of the bat with Bat oil (Raw Linseed Oil). Don’t use any other type. I’ve drizzled about 1 tea-spoon (5ml) on the face of the bat and smeared it into the wood with my fingers. I’ve also done the edges of the bats trying to avoid getting it on to the stickers. Anything that went on the stickers or looked excessive and not readily absorbed into the wood I wiped off with a tissue.
Day Two. (21st Sept).
Coat 2 of 4; The oil applied 24 hours ago has now been fully absorbed into the bat and the surface is dry once again. So this evening I've applied the 2nd coat. Exactly the same process. No knocking in, no rolling of the edges with the rolling pin. Apparently once the 4 coats have been applied the Willow will fairly soft in comparison with the dry state that the bat is delivered in.

One thing I've been made aware of is the fact that my bat has two types of wood found in the tree when it's cut down. Looking at the wood it has two colours. The darker colour wood is the 'Heartwood' and therefore a lot harder than the lighter colour wood and requires more Oiling, so when I'm oiling up the bat from now on I'm going back to the bat a couple of hours later and applying an additional drop on both this darker Heartwood and on the toe. Remember the advice from Warsop (see above) that says that no matter how much you pay for a bat or much you knock it in, a Yorker right on the toe of the bat will potentially kill your bat. To help alleviate this you need to pay particular attention to the toe and Jason Mellet recommends additional oil needs to be applied to the toe in the same way as the heartwood .
Day Three (22nd Sept). Tonight I'm just going to add a drop to the toe and the heartwood and allow the rest of the bat to fully absorb the oil already applied.
Day Four (23rd Sept). No more oiling tonight, the surface of the bat feels waxy, certainly not wet or damp, but I don't want to over oil it, so I'm going to leave it for a few days and see how it looks and feels possibly at the weekend. I've been looking for advice on removing the Toe Guard, but there's not a lot out there, but it is as basic as stick a knife under the edge and slowly ease it off. Again I'll look to do that at the weekend.
26th Sept.
Saturday morning I've worked on the bat with a rolling pin. The advice on one of the sites was to smooth the edges initially by using another rounded piece of wood, so I've used a cooking rolling pin and as you can see it's done the initial part quite well...

This was done by simply rubbing the rolling pin down the edge and you can clearly see that it takes that sharp edge off quite easily and in doing so demonstrates how soft the willow is and how important it is to work on that edge.

Once I'd smoothed off the edges using the rolling pin, I then started to work on them with the bat mallet, small taps all around the edges and on the toe. I've worked on both edges at this stage only lightly and on the toe, more work has been put into the toe than the edges at this stage and I must have only done about 10 minutes of knocking in.

25th October.  I've decided that I'm doing this slowly, so what with it being off-season here I'm only doing this every now over the week, but it's going well. I've been leaving the bat in the garage and I did leave it for a few weeks and then oiled it again with a very light layer. I'm increasing the hardness of the impact with the knocking in hammer and I've probably spent a genuine 40 minutes now of knocking it in over this period of time and so far there are no cracks or damage to any part of the bat. I've still got the toe guard in place - I couldn't figure a way of taking it off without making a complete mess of it. So I'm hitting the toe with the toe guard in place, whether this means I'm compressing the willow enough I'm not sure, but I am increasing hitting the toe harder and it may be because the toe guard is rubber it's just moving (Compressing) with the willow?
28th November. Every week generally at the weekends now, I spend a little bit of time continuing to knock this bat in and this weekend I've put a little more Oil on the bat as it had fully absorbed the oil. The striking of the bat is quite violent now and there's a lot of focus on the edges and the toe. Whereas in previous weeks you could see the bat compressing as it was being hit, it now appears to be pretty much done, with virtually no indication of being struck at all. Being someone who doesn't do a job that involves manual labour, I can't smack the bat continually for any period of time, I just haven't got the strength in my forearms, so at most I do this for 3 - 5 minutes at a time. I'm also very conscious of the fact that no-one likes the noise and the fact that it must get on everyone's nerves (Neighbours). I do it in the garage where the bats are stored, but my wife says that she can hear me doing it from inside the house, so if she can hear so too can 30-40 other people.
I'm getting to the point where I doubt whether many people actually complete the recommended 6 hours especially if they've bought the bat for such a small fee, it's almost certain that people must buy these types of bats - use them for a season or in the nets and then either break them or discard them?

7th December

Had a net session a couple of days back and gave the bat a run out and it did okay remembering I can't bat. Seems to have a nice ping in the middle and the balls at 60mph + made no indents at all. Since then I've continued to knock it in and will do so over the coming months, as I've said before, I'm now making no impression on the bat at all and I do wonder if anyone knocks these bats in for any more than half an hour. I'll continue, but I am doing it at about 20-30 minutes per weekend.
25th December 2015
This bat must now be nearing having had its full 6 hours of knocking in, but I'll continue to knock it in over the rest of the winter. I have read recently that there's no limit to how much you might knock the bat in, but six hours to me seems to be a fair enough effort. I'll now order the face and edge tape and it'll continue to be stored outside laid flat in our garage and I'll start to put it to use at the end of January in the pre-season nets. The only other thing I'll do is weigh it and see how it compares to the other two bats that are also being prepared for the same experiments - see below...

28th December 2015

Bad news for Kashmir... Despite all the knocking in and care and attention I've used the bat tonight in the nets against plastic 'Bola' balls - 5oz relatively soft plastic. Unfortunately the bat hasn't been able to handle them despite only being subjected to 150 balls approximately. The willow looks as though and feels as though it is starting to delaminate - above.
 The toe has developed some small cracks as well, so overall this is pretty damning for Kashmir. As far as I'm concerned I've probably knocked this bat in pretty well and it's been stored in good conditions (garage outside - cool and airy). I'm not going to give up quite yet... What I plan to do is glue up the cracks using super-glue and then use bat face tape and edge tape on this bat and then continue to use it in the nets over the coming months and see how it goes once covered in bat face tape. But... It doesn't bode well for Kashmir.

2nd Jan 2016

Just had another look at the now delaminating Slazenger V1200 and pondered what I should do with it, I've considered no longer knocking it in - which as I've said is pretty much done and just simply putting bat face tape over it. I've had a look around on the internet and found this forum discussion here having read through it, the advice I'm going to take and go forwards with is...

"So I spoke to B3, David to be precise. Decent chap. He advised me to use it until there is a significant enough split in the playing surface so they can get access to the gap and then glue it.
Make it worse. Cruel to be kind.

Seems like I'll have to use a scuff sheet after all when it's repaired".

So, I'll continue using it in the nets until it reaches the point where I can get some glue into it. Hopefully that's going to be next Saturday. Watch this space to see what happens next. In the meantime I'm now eyeing up...
10th Jan 2016

Used the bat again in the nets against Bola plastic balls with the machine at 65-68mph and it's come through okay. The other Kashmir bat though didn't do so well once we introduced it to some real cricket balls see here Ebay Bat no. 2:11

17th Jan 2016 - 4 months to the start of the season.

I've ordered some Extratec bat facing tape to put on this bat as well, both the Kashmir bats as everyone everywhere says are pretty poor. But, I'll tape it up, put some edge tape on this one as well and see how it goes. I've now pretty much accepted that you get what you pay for with Kashmir and that knocked in or otherwise if you can actually hit a ball they're probably not going to last more than a few games. But if you're a bowler like me, they may last you a season if you rarely hit the ball. I've been working on my batting so I'm hoping to be hitting the ball with a bit more frequency, so I'll give this bat a go and see how it fairs, but to be honest if I use it in winter nets which I may do I doubt if it'll even survive till May when the season starts.

31st Jan 2016 -

The Extratec tape came and it was applied to the bat with edge tape. Not sure now what I'll do with the bat, I may use it in the nets against cricket balls in February and see if it survives. In the short term Joe's going to buy his own English willow bat a Grade 3 New Balance bat and see how that goes? So for the moment no news on the progress of this bat till I start using it in February nets.

The other two bats are here...

Ebay Bat no. 2:11

Ebay Bat no.2

Update on this bat here and it's doing okay March 2016