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If I cast my mind way back, I can clearly remember when my father first opened VKS and I as an eight-year-old, walking around the range of cricket bats we had in stock. In those days it was all about brands like Duncan Fearnley, Stuart Surridge, St Peter as well as those that are still going strong today such as Gray-Nicolls and GM.
Where we now see lots of new graphics and designs introduced year-on-year, back then it was simple branding, a discrete model name and the same model lasting for a few seasons at least.
One of the best sellers of that era was the Duncan Fearnley Magnum. It was a big and butch cricket bat, with a simple look to it, but it sold like crazy. We would have new stocks arriving weekly such was the demand. As for our start-up days, initially we struggled to open up an account with Gray Nicolls.
At that time, there was a local sports store not too far from us who objected to our having an account with Grays. We therefore began trading without one of the biggest names on our shelves. After a while though, Grays as a company could see what we were doing and the enigmatic owner of the company, John Gray came down to see us. I remember him having a rather stylish car, which from memory I think was a Jaguar. What I clearly remember though is his number plate “GN100”. John Gray was a true gentleman and as our business grew so did the friendship between my father and John Gray. Like John Gray, my father also had a strong friendship with Tiger Surridge who owned Stuart Surridge and I’m glad to say that friendship is still there today.
The cricket industry was certainly very different back then. There was no talk about edges and spines. It was all about balance and ping. However, times change and so must we.
Whilst we understand the interest in specs, it at times also baffles me when a bat is discarded via email when we say it has 39mm edges and not the 40mm edges the customer wants. At risk of sounding arrogant and old fashioned, which is certainly not intended, there are too many ill-informed individuals offering their so-called expertise via YouTube and when I see the videos I really do shudder.
Although I stopped playing many years ago due to an illness, my passion for cricket bats is still as strong. As crazy as it may sound, I still pick out a new bat for myself every once in a while and oil and knock it in with the same passion I had many years ago. The bat stays behind my desk and every few days it gets picked up, the batting stance is set and I imagine going back to my school and club playing days.
My current bat thats been prepared but not used is an SF Black Edition. It’ll be time for a change soon and I think my next selection process may well bring out a Kookaburra Ghost Pro.
So coming back to the fact that I still pick out a bat for myself, I just wanted to highlight that I never bother with measuring the edge sizes, spine height or even the weight of the bat. All those factors are irrelevant and mean nothing to me when choosing a bat. That’s not to say I don’t respect the judgment of customers that find those factors important as I most definitely do, it’s just that I don’t think it makes a difference. After all which of these bats would you rather have: 1. 2.8 with 12 clean and even grains and 38mm edges. 2. 2.9 with 11 straight grains and 39mm edges 3. 2.8 with 9 straight grains and 40mm edges …even typing the above confused me!
However, it surprises me the number of customers that say no to a bat because it has 45mm edges and they want 46mm edges. The over importance placed on written down specs very means amazing bats are rejected and the not so great ones chosen.
My son for example plays for Ealing CC and Merchant Taylors School. As a growing young man, he invariably needs a new bat every year. With an endless choice of bats, I can honestly say that he is never stuck on just one brand and likewise I have never used weighing scales or any rulers when choosing a bat for him. It’s all based upon a good looking blade, how it pings with a mallet and most importantly how it picks up.
Each year he comments on how happy he is with his bat and the next year his choice is based on what feels and looks good to him.
The 2018 season is another exciting one for cricket bats. The New Balance Range with its red and white colour scheme for the TC series looks fantastic. Endorsed by Joe Root, the New Balance Range for 2018 looks great on the shelves and what stocks we’ve seen so far, the quality matches the looks. At the top of the tree in our New Balance range are the TC1260 and DC1080 models. Made from Grade 1 English willows these models offer top performance levels.
Having a top quality bat at top quality prices may not be for everyone though, so New Balance have a variety of different grades available with price points to suit everyone.
The graphics are the same apart from the model number so everyone could potentially look like Joe Root walking out to the crease. Gray Nicolls this year have produced their biggest range ever. The bold and yes very beautiful Kronos range with its toned down gold graphics looks amazing. A part of the Kronos Range this year is the Halestorm as used by Alex Hales. To call this a big bat is an understatement. The edges are huge, the middle is big but most importantly the ping is amazing. In terms of scale weights, don’t expect to see anything less than 2.12 or 2.13. In terms of pick up and balance though the bats have been designed and made to perfection and really do feel so much lighter.
There are so many other brands and ranges that we could talk about and we will in future blogs. For now, it was great to reminisce about old times and talk about how bats used to be.
From the new stocks we have seen coming in for the 2018 season, I feel a change is upon us again. It’s a good change with bat profiles being adapted to what the modern cricketer needs. As bowlers become faster and more aggressive, batsmen need to be quicker with their bat speed and movement around the crease. This means lighter bats that make batsmen more agile and responsive.
The new bat laws on edge thickness have certainly helped things. If you’re not allowed to use a bat that’s above a certain thickness, then makers won’t have to go through the hassle of making one that’s light and honestly speaking almost impossible to make.
Enjoy the season and please remember to pick a bat based on more that what it weighs on the scales or measures with a ruler.
All the best….