How to choose cricket equipment

We have written various blogs recently about choosing different pieces of cricket equipment, from batting legguards to footwear to cricket bats and batting gloves. All of those blogs hopefully have given some sort of an insight into buying cricket equipment in slightly more detail. Here however we would like to give you an overview of what to do when buying cricket equipment and hopefully this will make your life a little bit easier.

When buying for children, it’s good to take into account whether they are just starting out or have been playing for a while and are therefore well and truly into playing the game. After all we understand you don’t want to be spending lots of money if they are likely to give up after a very short while.

If they’re just starting out,  you’ll need the basic essentials of a cricket bat, batting leg guards, batting gloves, an abdo guard, cricket helmet and perhaps some shoes. These are the basic essentials that any kid will have and can be complimented by a good cricket bag to keep all the equipment safe. Details of exactly how much to spend on each piece of equipment and the different types can be found in all the blogs.

For the player that’s into it a little bit more, you can consider a set of all in one thigh and inner thigh guards, sometimes known as strippers, an arm guard, chest guard and a good pair of cricket shoes complimented by some good quality cricket socks too.

For senior players all of the above would be needed although for senior players a good set of cricket spikes or rubbers is an absolute essential.

When selecting a kit it’s a good idea to know your overall budget and then allocate on gloves, legguards and the bat according to the importance to you. Investing in good quality kit will pay dividends to you in the long run as it will last longer and perform better too.

When buying gloves, do make every attempt to try them on and don’t just go on brand and looks alone. It takes a lot of know how to make a good glove comfortable and many gloves out there just don’t meet our comfort standards. Likewise the same should be done with batting legguards, we see far too many overpriced leg guards that use the cheapest materials and simply don’t offer the flexibility and comfort that the batsmen needs.

Latest cricket helmets offer top levels of protection and the brands to consider are Gray-Nicolls, GM, Kookaburra as well as top quality brands such as Masuri and Shrey.

In terms of spikes, please refer to our blog on cricket footwear but to give you a quick insight here, the likes of Adidas and Asics make the top level shoes and a complimented by well price models from Kookaburra, GM and Gray Nicolls.

Again with other piece of kit like bags, you can have a look at our blog. Thus overall when buying it, it’s not always necessary to go crazy and spend lots of money. Do try and going to a reputable store that is known to carry a wide range and large stocks.

That way you get a great chance to see a display of items and try them out at your leisure, to ensure you get what you want and not what shop wants to sell you.

When is the best time to buy cricket equipment online or instore. 

We sell cricket gear all year round. In the midst of a wet and windy October we will often be helping someone select a new cricket bat, set of pads and even cricket spikes. For us, cricket is an all year sport that never stops being in demand.

When it comes to buying new kit, especially cricket bats were often asked the best time to do this. Well the obvious answer would be anytime is a good time, but with cricket bats it’s always good to buy a bat so you have enough time to prepare it before your first game or net session. All cricket bats, even those that are shown to be fully prepared and ready to play, in our opinion need to be knocked in. Ideally, two very light coats of oil to the exposed areas of the bat and then four hours of knocking in with a good quality mallet, will send you on your way to bat that not only performs well but will last longer to.

The knocking in process should be done over a period of time so as to allow the willow to expand and move around and then settle again during each knocking in phase. Out of the 4 hours we usually suggest 2 1/2 hours is allocated to the edges and the toe and the balance to the middle of the bat. Following this procedure will mean your bat is in perfect condition to start playing with.

So as we write this article we are coming to the end of January, which is therefore the ideal time to buy it but as with some time to go before the start of the season it give you adequate preparation time as well as the chance to have a few net sessions with it too. For those purchasing later in the season it’s not the end of the world, are you still going to be able to follow the same preparation procedure.

Again when it comes to buying the pads and gloves, if you can buy them a little bit earlier, it just gives you a chance to perhaps break them in when sitting at home watching TV, you could put the gloves on for awhile and this gives you a chance to break them in before your first game. Having said that however we find that nowadays the quality of batting gloves has inproved greatly and the materials are so soft that they hardly need any breaking in.

So it’s always a good time to buy cricket equipment, but with bats we just suggest enough time to knock in and prepare your bat properly.

Cricket equipment and the art of listening

Every year we are treated to a wealth of new cricket equipment from all the leading brand names. From bats, gloves and pads to footwear, clothing and helmets, each major brand name is constantly looking for that all new, innovative material or revolutionary bat making technique, that will take the world by storm and therefore ensure market domination in the years to come!

This year when I heard the name Supernova, my first visions were of 2 brothers from Manchester singing away and eventually calling the track Champagne Supernova…basically I wasn’t too impressed and immediately asked our sales rep “why”?

I had visions in my head of everything I would hate in a cricket bat range. How wrong I was and how I really needed to give more respect to the expertise and judgement to the team at Gray- Nicolls, under the guidance of Nick Wilton, who over the years has developed a brilliant knack of listening to retailers feedback and acting on it. 

As retailers we get to hear first hand from customers as to what is good and what is bad in a product. The comments we get and also overhear in store are invaluable, but sometimes  the feedback we relay back to the brands is ignored because an element of pride kicks in. It’s as if to say well it’s my range and I will do as I want because I know best. That maybe the case but at the end of the day we have to listen to our customers as ultimately you make a product to sell it, not just admire it. 

Trust me there are brands out there that just don’t listen or when they do its 5 years behind time. Luckily the bigger brands like Gray-Nicolls, Kookaburra and GM are the ones that really do listen and 12 months on, what you say is very often seen in a new product. 

At the other end of the spectrum you have brands like Nike. Great at every sport and everything they do, but when it came to cricket they got it completely wrong. I recall seeing the range a few years ago and when asked for our input, I think they expected a typical wow I love it and you are amazing. What they got instead was I think your cricket shoes look awful, your bats need a lot of work and the clothing sizes are all wrong. We got a look that said we are Nike and we eat businesses like you for breakfast each day. Well low and behold a few years on and they have pulled out of the UK market and rumour has it they may quit cricket altogether. Arrogance more often than not causes ones downfall and the Nike scenario is a classic example. 

Another example relates to toe guards. For  many seasons we spoke to Salix about fitting toe guards to thier bats. The answer was always no, until Andrew Kember at Salix came to us one day with a big smile and said you will be pleased to know we will be fitting toe guards on the bats and it’s only because of you! To us it was certainly good news, as to many that looked at the Salix cricket bats we had on display felt something was missing. It’s not that we are mad about toe guards, it’s just what customers expect to see on a bat nowadays and specially when it’s a top quality one selling for over £300! Whilst Salix may have been stubborn when it came down to toe guards, a look at the rest of the range and you can clearly see it’s one made with customer feedback in mind. They have an excellent range of softs which are comfortable and certainly not offensive to the eye. Their bags take into account what players want, the colours they like and most importantly the price points they are willing to pay and that’s why Salix are good at what they do. 

So back to Grays. What they have created is a well thought out range of products in a non offending colour scheme that is designed to be liked my many and detested by very very few, if any. Bats hit every price point and the softs do the same. Producing a good glove or pad is so much more that just the colours. You have to use the right materials in the right places and if you do, you end up with a product that performs. Get it wrong and the feel just won’t be there. Gray-Nicolls are one of those brands that make brilliant batting gloves. The flexibility and comfort they offer is amongst the best and when you have the looks of the Supernova then you have the all round package. A couple of years ago they had an issue with their batting gloves, in that they were a little small and this created problems with online orders. The problem has since been resolved and the sizing is on par with other brands. 

This is what makes a successful brand, listening to feedback, acting on it and then producing a product that the customer wants. Sounds logical, but in practice it’s not so straight forward. Take a company like woodworm for example, they had a great brand name, some strong marketing and products that were well made, but for some reason they seemed primarily to appeal to the junior market only and that to for Kashmir willow bats only. I recall the Christmas just after England is famous Ashes victory in 2005, the whole country seemed to be cricket crazy and every little kid wanted a cricket bat for Christmas. Our phone just didn’t stop ringing and online orders were constantly coming through. It seemed like every child in the country wanted a woodworm bat. In this scenario woodworm had produced a product that everyone wanted, he only problem for them was that the profit margin on a Kashmir Willow bat was not big enough to justify the huge sponsorship for they had to pay the likes of KP and Flintoff.

One area in which we have a great advantage is in the production of pads and gloves. We have since 1973 produced our own VKS range of batting gloves and pads and have been lucky enough to work for the last 25 years with one of the best factories in the world. 

We hear first hand from our customers on what is good and bad about each of the softs we sell in store. We take this feedback and each year adapt our range to produce something even better. We constantly change the materials we use and the what goes inside the protective gear. There are numerous companies selling gear online now and whilst it all may look good in photos, we would never let our brand name onto most of it. 

We sell only one we believe in. Typically when you see a product on our website, or on our shelves it’s because we approve of it and we feel we can sell it to our customers with confidence. We like to think of ourselves as cricket specialists and experts, one that our customers rely on for our advice. We’ve never been one to just stock a brand because it’s in fashion or because it’s the in thing at the moment. For us to stock a product or brand we have to believe in it and we have to believe in the quality and value for money they offer. Brands like Boom Boom and Mongoose as well as some others that still operate just don’t appeal to us. We get them offering great deals and even offers of pay us when it sells, but wejust don’t operate like that. We don’t sell products because it suits our finances, we sell it because we believe in it and because we believe the brand supplying the product can offer the back up service in case of a problem. They need to be selling a quality product that’s based on sound principles of design, not just a label and brand.