How do I prepare and look after a cricket bat?
The main purpose of knocking in your cricket bat is to harden the face and in particular the toe and edge areas to help protect your cricket bat from damage due to miss-timed shots that everybody makes from time to time. The secondary aim is to help develop the middle and sweet spot.
Every manufacturer tries to gain a balance between pressing the wood too hard for protection whilst leaving it soft enough to provide the necessary springy characteristics required by a cricket bat.
By knocking the cricket bat in you are providing the finishing stages of the pressing process and making the toe and edges harder than the rest of the bat to try to help prevent damage.
ALL new cricket bats require knocking in after they have been oiled; this should be performed with a special knocking in mallet.
Start by gently knocking and deflecting the mallet against the blade paying special attention to the edges and toe area of the bat. Always knock in from the front face of the bat, NEVER from the sides or underneath the toe. Gradually increase the force of the blows over a period of time until you are comparable with the force of a ball used in match conditions.
The initial knocking in stages should take at least 6 full hours of blows, remember to pay most attention to the edges (outermost 1" of wood) and the front of the toe area.
After these six hours use your cricket bat with soft, old balls in the nets, then examine the face for seam marks. If deep seam marks are present your bat requires some more knocking in. Knock in for a further one-hour and repeat the gentle net session. During these initial net sessions be careful and do not attempt extravagant cross bat shots and slogs, you are still testing your bat and damage could result if the bat is under prepared.
Once no further deep seam marks appear your cricket bat is ready for testing against newer, harder balls, repeat the process until no deep seam marks appear with new balls. At this point your bat should be ready for match use.
It is advisable not to use a new cricket bat during indoor net sessions or on concrete practice pitches, the ground is often very hard and will increase the risk of damage to the toe of your bat, especially if you try to 'dig out Yorkers' or catch the bat on the floor as you attempt a shot. Damage caused under these conditions is not covered by any bat warranty.
During the playing life of your cricket bat treat it with care and attention; at the start and end of each season lightly sand the blade and apply another light coat of oil. Do not put the bat away wet as this will encourage rotting and try to store the bat in cool, moist conditions to prevent excessive drying of the willow. Do not keep your cricket bat in your car boot for any length of time as this will dry the willow and make it very weak. You will get the best out of your bat if you look after it, treat it as your best friend and you will be rewarded with performance and life span.
As a precaution you might want to apply an anti-scuff face to your new bat. . A clear anti-scuff face will help prevent damage to the face and slow the process of natural cracking of the willow.
Please remember willow is a soft fibrous wood, which makes it ideal for cricket bats, but it will crack. The grains will naturally open slightly over time and with use. This is superficial and is indicative of the willow settling down too its job of work. Other cracks and indents will also occur, especially with miss-timed shots, edges and hits on the toe.
Cricket bats are designed to hit the ball 12-20 cm up from the toe and in the middle of the blade, failure to do this could result in damage to the bat which is not the result of a fault in the bat, damage to the edges and toes caused by mis-hits is not covered by any bat warranty from any manufacturer or supplier.