Friday, May 14, 2010

Railway sleepers and planks

Railway sleepers and planks

On a totally different (and self-indulgent) note, I’ve been hugely enjoying England’s run to the final in the World 20/20s.  And the best reason for their progression has been their prodigious six-hitting – there was a shot by wunderkind Eoin Morgan that sailed over midwicket despite the fact that he misread the pace and ended up swatting it one-handed.

But there is more than an element of truth in this article by Martin Johnson about the extraordinary new bats used by players today. 

Of Don Bradman’s 6,996 Test runs, precisely 36 came in sixes, but the modern equivalent of the Don’s two pounder is a railway sleeper that picks up like Andre Previn’s baton. Lord knows how many extra trees have been felled to make these things.

Perhaps because they are less heavily pressed, modern bats are indeed simultaneously chunkier and lighter than they used to be.  As a result, they break far more easily – a modern professional will get through at least five or six bats a season, where previously a bat might last for several seasons.  With the wood less compressed, you get a springier surface – which makes the ball go further.

Not being either sponsored or minted, I have no such luxury – and (partly because I play so little now, sob) I have used the same bat for about the last seven seasons, with only a short break to get it re-handled after the splice went.  But then, it’s a Newbery (once a Series One, now re-stickered as a Caduceus, for the sad amongst us) and they are terrific bats.

But as a reflection on what they used to be like, a few years ago I was playing an old-fashioned village friendly.  I’d come down from London without my kitbag, and was borrowing kit left, right and centre.  The bat I ended up using, faut de mieux, was my father’s old bat from the 60s – an antique Grey Nicholls something-or-other.  People talk about sweet-spots these days, but this was the real thing.  Hit it out of the middle and it was still sweet as a nut, but anything off the toe or near the edge just trickled away into the infield.  It was the least forgiving bat I’ve ever used.  I think even Eoin Morgan would struggle to hit the ball one-handed into the crowd using one of these.

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