It has been a topic of conversation for a while and last week we saw the MCC finally make a stand regarding the size of cricket bats. While we, as a brand, can adapt to this and work within guidelines, we also feel this is shortsighted, lacks logic and shouldn't be addressed in isolation. Here's why.
In order to judge one must first seek to understand. So let's understand the current environment for batsmen in a few words. Flat pitches, shorter boundaries, cricket balls which lack durability, TV ratings, professional high performance athletes. The list could go on. Cricket bats are a small piece of a very large puzzle and, while changes to bat regulations are OK, they should be done in conjunction with changes to other aspects of the game to even things up. For example, when you do see the batsmen, with these 'supposed' big powerful bats, finally bat on a pitch offering something for the ball...the big bats are often mitigated.
A four day Test has been promoted in recent days which is, again, part of the ever changing puzzle. In doing so, the ICC and their member countries, have acknowledged the game has changed and they need to adapt. One commentator provided some great insight into these changes. Being an ex-Test cricketer himself he said changes should be done in conjunction with faster over rates, smaller drinks breaks...and a new ball every 60 overs. The latter being the most prominent comment as it gives value back to the bowler and levels the playing field...so to speak.
Now back to the bats. Why does it lack logic? Simply put, physics. I am no scientist. I finished science topics in 5th form. However, from my basic knowledge Newton's Law states F (Force) = m (Mass) x a (Acceleration). Now, if we go by that theory and Force would equal the power to get the ball over the rope, while Mass is weight, changing bat 'sizes' just for Test matches won't make a difference.
In the old days, bats were smaller in size but they still weighed the same as they do today. We still sell most of our bats between 2.8 lb and 2.10 lb. However, bats today are made using English Willow which is much drier than it used to be. Indeed the clefts from the willow suppliers are the same size they have always been. The dryness of the willow allows for greater use of the cleft which is what you are seeing. However, it has had the moisture removed. Moisture is weight. Weight is mass.
Glenn Turner and Lance Cairns both used bats around the 3 lb mark. Imagine those bats today. Chris Cairns, Mark Greatbatch, Ian Botham & Viv Richards all had no problem clearing the rope. If you look closely at most of the bats being used in Test cricket, they are not 3 lb blades as most guys still can't adjust a bat that size quickly enough if the line of the ball changes. And for those quick to comment on David Warner's bat consider the fact he uses a shorter bat which means more volume can go into the middle. Smoke and mirrors.
Sure, some will also comment on the leading edges that go for six over cover. That never used to happen. To that end we say yes, edges could be regulated but the only reason they go that far is due to surface area. Get more surface on the ball and you transfer more energy to it.
Now if we go back to moisture, you can not start increasing the moisture content in willow just for Test cricket...which is where the MCC want to make changes. It is simply too complicated. So lets assume the moisture content stays the same and they want to reduce the size of the bats. The result will be one of two things.
The first being reduced size but using the drier willow. This can only mean a bat with considerably reduced weight. The problem being the structural integrity of the bat will then be compromised leading to more broken bats. Something we wouldn't recommend.
The second being greater compression. The bats will simply be pressed harder to reduce the size. So back to the physics. Compression does not reduce weight. The weight stays the same. Weight equals mass. Mass equals force. You will have harder, more compressed bats weighing the same which means they will still hit the ball just as hard due to the next point. Acceleration.
Acceleration is a combination of both ball speed and bat speed. We know ball speed has not changed in the history of cricket. Bowlers still bowl the same speed's they always have. However, the batsmen have changed. These guys are now athletes. Athletes who work on improving their strength and conditioning at every opportunity. Strength and conditioning allows for greater acceleration of a bat. They also practice hitting the ball harder and further than they used to. The likes of David Boon were great exponents of timing but, all due respect, were not athletes. Today's top batsmen have both timing and power.
So in summary, ladies and gents of the MCC & ICC, lets not isolate the humble cricket bat as the root of all evil. The game currently allows for the batsmen to sit on the front foot, assess a ball which loses its shine, its seam and its hardness very early and hit through the line of said ball in confidence it won't change its line. Focus on the sum of the parts to better understand how we can all remain entertained by this great game.