A cricket bat is a specialized piece of equipment used by batsmen in the sport of cricket to hit the ball, typically consisting of a cane handle attached to a flat-fronted willow-wood blade. The length of the bat may be no more than 38 inches (965 mm) and the width no more than 4.25 inches (108 mm). Its use is first mentioned in 1624. Since 1979, a rule change stipulated that bats can only be made from wood.
The blade of a cricket bat is a wooden block that is generally flat on the striking face and with a ridge on the reverse (back) which concentrates wood in the middle where the ball is generally hit. The bat is traditionally made from willow wood, specifically from a variety of white willow called cricket bat willow (Salix alba var. caerulea), treated with raw (unboiled) linseed oil, which has a protective function.
This variety of willow is used as it is very tough and shock-resistant, not being significantly dented nor splintering on the impact of a cricket ball at high speed, while also being light in weight. The face of the bat is often covered with a protective film by the user.
The blade is connected to a long cylindrical cane handle, similar to that of a mid-20th-century tennis racquet, by means of a splice. The handle is usually covered with a rubber grip. Bats incorporate a wooden spring design where the handle meets the blade. The current design of a cane handle spliced into a willow blade through a tapered splice was the invention in the 1880s of Charles Richardson, a pupil of Brunel and the first Chief Engineer of the Severn Railway Tunnel.
Spliced handles had been used before this but tended to break at the corner of the join. The taper provides a more gradual transfer of load from the bat’s blade to the handle and avoids this problem. The edges of the blade closest to the handle are known as the shoulders of the bat, and the bottom of the blade is known as the toe of the bat.
Bats were not always this shape.
Before the 18th century bats tended to be shaped similarly to a modern hockey
sticks. This may well have been a legacy of the game’s reputed origins.
Although the first forms of cricket are obscure, it may be that the game was
first played using shepherd’s crooks.
The bat generally recognised as the oldest bat still in existence is dated 1729 and is on display in the Sandham Room at The Oval in London.
In 2004 Newbery created the Uzi, with a truncated blade and elongated handle for the new Twenty20 format of the game. This change allowed more wood to be placed in the middle, as more attacking shots are played in the shorter version of the game.
In 2009 an extreme version of the Newbery Uzi shape named the Mi3 was launched by Mongoose. The design is unusual in that the blade is 33% shorter than a conventional bat and the handle is 43% longer. Launched with a fanfare of publicity it proclaimed the idea of not defending the ball in the T20 format and purely playing attacking shots.
On 11 March 2010, Mongoose launched its range in India with the announcement of Matthew Hayden as the brand ambassador. Stuart Law, the former Australian Test player, called it “a half-brick on a stick”. The bat is used by Anuraag in the 2010 version of the IPL. Gareth Andrew, scored the maiden 100 with an MMi3 in professional cricket, when he hit 100 off 58 balls at the Oval in 2010 against Surrey.
In 2008 Lekka Cricket launched a T20 format bat, the Big Hitter. Black Cat Cricket then launched a T20 format bat, the Joker, in 2009. These worked on a similar principle to other T20 bats. And with the blade length reduced by one inch and an inch longer handle, but uniquely reduced the width of the bat to 4 inches in an adult bat.