Sunday, February 07, 2016

More practice - Pre nets

Langdon Hills Recreation Ground - Tennis courts

Was the venue for a practice today for Joe and I
This is a vid from a few years ago when the place was in a fairly good condition when the fences were sound and the tarmac in reasonable condition. In the last few years Basildon Council have seemingly let it fall into a state of disrepair which is a real shame as there's very few places in the area where you can play ball games within a fairly large area and contain the ball. It seems really daft when the government are aware that the population is increasingly sedentary and inactive and obesity and the likes means the NHS pick up the cost - that's paid through taxes. But, how is anyone going to engage in sport if the facilities are not there?

Anyway that aside - what with the surface being so rough I thought it might be a challenge to try and bat on it and sure enough it was. The surface is badly damaged by frost and is ROUGH so with Joe bowling Off-Breaks using relatively bouncy Bola balls (Red ones) I had problems. Right Arm Off-Spin is one of the things I come across a lot as a tail ender and is one of the things I really struggle with so this challenge is one of the key ones I need to come up with solutions to. In the end I came up with a couple of solutions...

(1). Standing right on the edge of the crease if not just out of it which is risky, but I seemed to be pulling it off the majority of the time by giving myself a far better chance of getting to the pitch of the ball and either hitting it cleanly or just smothering it.

(2). Again - staying with the same stance and position just outside of the crease - creep forwards a touch encouraging the bowler to bowl fuller and then hitting on the full with a drive or stepping back if it was short and cutting it off the back foot.

As I said for the most part it worked and I was probably successful 19 out of 20 times during which I was hitting the ball effectively - meaning that I'd be making runs and getting off of strike, all of which is a massive improvement on previous years. I'm definitely hitting the ball exponentially more than I have ever done and doing so with far more confidence so I'm really looking forward to May when the season starts.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Pre nets practice

I've not bowled for months now having given myself a rest and focused for once on my batting. The nets that we go to once a fortnight are rammed solid at the weekend and booked up, so this weekend we're not going. Last weekend we practiced at a local 'Cage' and it proved to be a decent place to practice, so we went again today and did some work with batting and bowling for once.

Batting went okay, although Joe was a bit of a pain as he came along with attitude and didn't seem to do anything with any effort or conviction. He's 14, nearly 15, so has a bit of an attitude issue when you drag him away from Youtube! Similar to last week I was practicing moving my feet - getting to the pitch of the ball, driving the ball and paddle sweeps. All of which I'm doing with far more assuredness and success.

The bowling was reasonable, but I've already identified what I need to focus on and it's exactly what Tony M was recommending when I last bowled at Writtle... focusing on getting up on the toes in the delivery. There's a weeks holiday coming up soon for me (Lecturer) which means I can focus on this and practice with a lot more conviction and maybe get the video recording going and record my progress. What is good though is the fact that the 'New run-up' seems to be feeling pretty natural and the ball is coming out okay despite not bowling properly since late October early November.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The moment of truth

Our clubs net sessions are approaching and the moment of truth. Will all the practice we've been putting in with our batting pay off? We've spent money on net sessions and using halls for throw downs to try and develop some batting skills and both of us - Joe and I feel that we've made significant progress that may see us move up the order this year? Needless to say we'll have to prove ourselves to see the promotion up the order, but I'm personally eyeing up the No.8 position!

Today we were planning to go to the local community centre and do some drills with throw-downs or bowling off of 18 yards (quicker response time required). But it was fully booked so instead we drove around looking for a 'Cage' and found the usually 'Full' one at Markham's chase was empty and used that. This is a brilliant facility which seemingly now seems under threat. Once upon a time - situated behind a superb leisure centre that all of our family used to use, it now finds itself right next to some private houses built on the site of the old centre and the residents seem to not be in favour of it see article here.

Spent about an hour and half batting looking to move my feet and getting to the pitch of the ball. Other things - moving my feet and body towards the leg-side without falling over and for the most part this was all coming together nicely. Joe had come along with a bit of an attitude, so wasn't playing ball properly which was a shame, but this kind of played into my hands as it meant that it was more like the drills I've seen on-line where you have to move masses to get behind the ball!

It was just good to get outside as it was so mild 13 degrees and didn't cost me a penny whereas the same thing would have cost me a tenner indoors for less time.

Our first net of the season will Tuesday 23rd and we'll find out whether there has been any improvement. That's also when I'll start to bowl properly with the new improved action, so with three weeks to go before I start that I may need to be working on some general fitness - especially the bottom half of my body and cardio work, so I may start going for a gentle run every other night in the week with Joe.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

SEDBC training Joe

As per usual Joe didn't seem to be that up for going training - freezing cold night and the drive to Fitzwymarc school straight after dinner. "I'd rather go to sleep". We arrived with Mo and his Dad Naeem and saw that most of the other lads must have been of the same opinion as Joe and had stayed at home. The bloke Scott led the session talking about the need for strategies and plans then handing out written down game scenarios, saying to the lads, that's where you are in the game - think about your strategy and set your field. The boys were put in random groups of 4 and told to discuss it amongst themselves and come up with a plan and field. Quite a tough task if you're not a cricket obsessive with any desire to be a captain I'd say.

Obviously though, it was also a strategy to see who would take control of the groups, as these boys would be potential candidates  for the captains role. Joe's group only had 3 and one lad 'AB' took control from the start with Joe and the other kid chipping in. It looked though as the AB kid then having started the plan - handed it over to Joe and the other kid and said... you decide where the remaining leg-side players should be.  Which I thought was clever.
 
 
 


Their scenario was the first ball of the game as far as I could make out and they came up with this...
Joe had one other kid in his lane and using this field they both took a wicket each in the first over, nicking it to slips. Both of then bowled a pretty good line and length preventing the batsmen from scoring runs. The first 4 overs they'd gone for 14 runs, most of runs coming from balls being struck through the dark green zone.

After the four overs the bloke Scott got them to review the situation and the field was adapted to this...
Eleven was move around and 9 taken out and put in slips to cut off the runs and sure enough it had the desired affect.
 
Joe bowled really well, not once did he stray down the legside - leaving that to the other 2 kids bowling with him. Some of the balls were a little short and near the end he bowled a lovely slow ball which had the batsman all at sea. Joe came away from the session having really enjoyed it and I think he also came away feeling as though he'd learnt something really useful that would enable him to have the confidence to put the plan into place in a game scenario. As far as Joe was concerned this was his best session so far and the most useful.
 
Overall though it was observed that they're all a bit quiet still and they were encouraged to speak up and suggest things and have discussions openly about what had happened. But I still think they're all still unsure of each other and not comfortable in their roles and places in the team set-up. Joe this week probably buoyed by the session and having his confidence boosted was far more comfortable with the kids in his net and vice versa. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Cricket Bat Willow - Kashmir v English and cricket bat qualities and attributes.

Kashmir Willow (This is still being worked on).

In cricket the term Kashmir willow is said with contempt and utter derision, but is it really that bad and why has it got such a bad reputation?

 As someone who bowls and bats at number 9,10 or 11 I've never understood why anyone who can't bat and there are many of us at club level (Some of whom don't bowl) would ever pay for a good quality bat?

Is the bad rep down to the characteristics and properties of the wood or is there something about the way that it is sold and marketed?

So, I've spent a little bit of time trying to dig up some good news for Kashmir bats but have come across very little that I can use. If you look around the internet there's anecdotal information that people like Raul Dravid, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar have used Kashmir bats 'Early in their careers'. But I couldn't find any concrete evidence of that being the case, it might be true in that when they were kids they used Kashmir? There's another argument that - in the same way that English willow varies massively from the bats the pro's use down to grade 5 . Kashmir obviously has similar characteristics in accordance to where it's grown, the local climate, weather, soil types etc. It may be the case that within India there are bespoke bat makers that are able to source better quality Kashmir willow and for all we know this may be passed on to the pro's when they have to be seen to promote the local bats? This is of course speculation, but it does seem somewhat ridiculous to say that all Kashmir willow is of one grade... "bad".

You can easily find articles about how the bats are made in India and the owners of companies owning up to the fact that they'll sell any old rubbish to the locals. There's also the numerous articles and forum pages that discuss the fact that if the bat has got Tendulkar's name on it and a fake MRF sticker it'll fly out of the door in it's thousands irrespective of the quality of the wood. Again this makes total sense when in the subcontinent they do play a lot of cricket socially using rubber balls and tape balls. Where I live in the UK there are loads of blokes who work in the IT industry who are 1st generation immigrants from the subcontinent region and they play their cricket in this exact way, so Kashmir for them is no doubt ideal. But to say all of it is one grade has got to be complete nonsense surely?

Companies such as Kookaburra, Slazenger, Puma and Adidas all have amongst their ranges Kashmir bats... Surely these big name brands have some say in the quality of the willow that they stick their brand names on?


While I was doing the research for the above I came across some interesting information on the Kookaburra website. It's frequently said that the Indian companies that trade through Ebay are some of the most unscrupulous around, making wild claims about the bats that they sell, but whilst looking around the Kookaburra website looking for their Kashmir bats I found this advert which I thought was interesting...

As far as I'm concerned this advert is incredibly misleading. You can see the bat, the advert owns up to the fact that it's Kashmir willow, but other parts of the advert give the impression that Jos uses this bat "As used by" and "Used by pro's" and finally beneath the image the text pointing out that is "Armed with the Verve". The bat above retails for about £30 in the UK. The same price as the bats that I'm testing out at the moment here .The uninitiated, unfortunately are not aware that in fact the bat that Jos is more than likely using is a souped up version of this bat here below... Although some pro's do use the top range bats straight off the shelf alongside the bespoke versions.

Which as you can see retails for £439.95 a rather big difference.

I don't think this type of marketing does Kashmir willow any favours at all, the wording should indicate it's the style of bat Jos uses, not imply it is the bat he uses. To be honest he probably doesn't even use the £550 version, instead he has his bats made for him by Kookaburra's master bat-makers using one of the very unique pieces of grade 1 willow set aside for pro's and people that can afford to have a bat made to order at the factory. See this article here.

I'm digressing a little here, the point I was looking to make was that companies such as Adidas, Puma, Gunn and Moore, Kookaburra etc. are not in the business of selling shoddy goods. They have a name and reputation to keep, so if you buy one of their Kashmir bats, I think with a little research you're going to quickly grasp that it isn't the same product as a grade 1 English willow bat and that is obviously reflected in the price... As little as £14.00 for the bat I use as opposed to the example above at £439.95. But it is a bat and it will function as a bat. If you're a lower end batsman, tail-ender like us, even if you take it from the shop and walk out onto a cricket pitch and start using it, it is probably going to last you a season without any preparation or knocking in. Alternatively when you hit the first ball it may break. But that applies to the £500 bats as well... read this here - especially the bit headed 'Damages'... http://www.cricketdirect.co.uk/all-about-cricket-bats.aspx 

That last link from cricket direct has a relatively fair take on Kashmir bats and they sell a good range of them at good prices. The advice is pretty standard in that they recommend them as low end adult bats, what that actually means and infers I'm not quite sure, but I'm sure if you do play cricket you'll be more than aware that cricket is pretty batting-centric, everything is pretty much about the batsmen, they're seen to be the super-heroes, so if you're a bowler you're a bit part player. Batsmen are never forced to bowl and therefore humiliate themselves, whereas bowlers all have to bowl at some point irrespective of whether we're any good at it or not. We don't like it and the irony is that fellow bowlers are complicit in our pain and humiliation. It seems to me in that act of enforced vulnerability we look for solutions and one of  the solutions we seem to turn to and grasp at, is the belief that maybe the bat and the quality of the bat may have some bearing on the outcome? I don't think it does and I think you humiliate yourself further by buying a top quality bat and making yourself look like a fool.

Is it not better to be completely indifferent to the bat and own up and say 'Mate, I barely get the chance to hit the bloody ball - so why would I pay £400 for a bat'?

But, all that aside, there is still virtually nothing on the internet that indicates any real in-depth analysis of the virtues (if there are any) of Kashmir willow bats. During the research that I've completed in compiling this article I came across only a handful of positive reviews

Double click on the image below for a video review where the bloke talks about the use of Kashmir bats in a relatively positive way...

I think I'll let 'Kev' a massive contributor to the forum Planetcricket.org have the final say on Kashmir bats...

"As a general observation, you can't compare the bat Tendulkar uses to the same bat in your local cricket store. They aren't the same. Is a very good Kashmir willow bat as good as a decent English willow bat? I don't know, logic tells me that there must be some very good pieces of Kashmir willow around where the fibre structure is pretty similar to English willow but I doubt very much these pieces of willow ever make it to a shop. But as this is the Your Cricket section, I suppose your choice of bat should come down to 2 things. 1: How much money do you have to spend and 2: Do you hit the ball sweetly. Because if you can't get bat on ball does it really matter what your bat is made of."

Other people have said that better quality Kashmir bats are as good as grade2 and grade 3 English willow and a fraction of the cost?

Trees and geography. The best bats made throughout the world seemingly are made of English Willow sourced from South East England primarily from my own county Essex and the adjacent county Suffolk. The wood is grown in a haphazard way in that there doesn't seem to be such a thing as enormous Willow woods set aside for just that purpose. If you search 'Willow wood plantation' you'll find images of small plantations, instead land-owners are encouraged to grow the tree as a long term investment seemingly in relatively small copses. The tree is often associated with damp areas and rivers, and throughout Essex you'll see rivers lined with Willow trees.


The English version
The best bats in the world irrespective of where they are made use the same wood, almost exclusively from the same source - JS Wright in south east England, just up the road from where I live. The tree that is grown is  found primarily in the Northern Hemisphere... "salix alba caerulea"or White Willow that has the characteristics and properties that suit high quality bat making...

The climate, geography and growing conditions in this part of the world combined with nearly 2 centuries of forestry and agricultural skills mean that the properties of this wood are unique. So unique that virtually every high quality bat has it's origins in this small area.
Bat Willow (salix alba caerulea).
And this is down to the climate and geographic features. I have noted whilst researching this article that there companies based in the north of the UK that have started to grow willow for the same purpose see here but having said, that this opening article alludes to the fact that they confirm that they get most of their willow from the region I've indicated.





Is Kashmir willow any good at all and why has it got such a bad reputation?








Positive - Kashmir http://www.ebay.co.uk/gds/Buying-Cricket-Bats-HELP-The-myth-and-scam-of-EWNI-/10000000010832242/g.html

http://shop.dreamcricket.com/dreamcricket/pavilion/buyingguide_Englishwillow_versus_kashmirwillow.asp

This image here is from a video on Youtube at 3 mins into the video the bat-maker is seen shaping a bat and if you're observant you'll notice that the piece of cardboard that he's squatting on is from the willow supplier JS Wright indicating that this bloke produces top quality bats using English willow in India. Which adds more confusion to any claims that bats made by small operations in India make false claims about the proprietary of their products.(Double click the image for the video).





It seems that without doubt if you can bat and you're an opening batsman or a middle order batsman that can hit the ball with ease and finesse, there's little reason to choose Kashmir if you can afford the real deal. There's an annoying Youtube bloke here that makes a good case for using one or the other and if you can get past the dumb self promotion inserts it's worth listening to.

So what are the differences - why is there such a massive difference in price and quality?

If you do pay nearly £300 for a bat it strikes me that you're going to be able to use it properly and you're going to look after it. Buying an expensive bat doesn't mean that the bat is going to last years and years, especially if you're not that good at batting. All of the top quality bat manufacturers advise that their bats should be knocked in, but they all have a legal caveat that says that if they break the first time they're used that's your fault not the bats or the manufacturers. There is a really interesting article on cricinfo that discusses the trends in bat making pointing out that the leaders in this industry respond to the styles and approaches used by international batsmen. Currently the trend is towards big thick edged bats but with no additional weight factor. As a consequence the bats that are made for pro's are very different to those bought from the shop.
http://neilhallphoto.tumblr.com/post/123536249556/willow-to-the-crease-the-art-of-creating-cricket
Double click image for Neil Halls documentary images of cricket bat manufacturing.

The manufacturers who sponsor batsmen are constantly looking for individual clefts that fulfil this near impossible combination of weight, shape and strength and the expectations of the wood are now being pushed to the limits of attainment, with an acknowledgement that the bats wont last. In response the manufacturers then have to produce a similar bat for the club players and the next grade down is chosen, but the longevity, durability and strength of such a bat pushed to it's physical limits is such that they are susceptible to breaking. What you end up paying for is a superbly made bat, that works well and plays well up to a limit. But it's not the bat that you see the worlds best players using.

As one of the respondent's to the linked article above says...

"Truth of the matter is, general public simply does NOT have access to the grade of willow reserved for international batsmen. That willow is already filtered out at J.S. Wright farms and kept away from being shipped to general bat makers. Asian bats that are big, light and available to general public are basically over dried clefts of willow that is pressed very, very lightly or not pressed at all. This gives a bloated look to the bat but fact of the matter is, such willow is no comparison to naturally super low density clefts that are used by international pros".

Kashmir Willow on the other hand is a completely different prospect primarily because the wood is denser and heavier and therefore can't ever compete on the same level as the English Willow grown in South East England (JS Wright).

I'm currently in position where I feel that Kashmir willow definitely has its merits for any mortals who don't fancy themselves as over-looked Steve Smiths or Joe Roots. Let the deluded fork out hundreds of pounds/dollars for an inferior version of the bat that they see the pro's using in belief that there is some kind of comparison. Whereas possibly (and I am saying possibly because I might be totally wrong) the better option given their skills might be the much maligned Kashmir bat - denser and heavier and potentially better for hitting the ball for fours and sixes?  So why not consider Kashmir or at least give it a go?





Looking at it and wondering why it had lasted so long I wondered if the bat face tape had anything to do with its longevity? I'd also always been puzzled by the fact that being covered in bat-face tape - how did it last this long without being oiled? So some research was done (See below) into knocking bats in and I discovered a few things as we went about the process of getting the bat ready to use.

Joe's Slazenger V1200 Premier
  • Despite the fact that the bat has been pre-knocked in, virtually everyone says that it still needs to be done for a few more hours.
  • Oil the bat 3 times over 3 or 4 days. Oil it and then leave it for 24 hours. Only a small bit of oil is required
  • The edges of the bat are important and so too is the toe and these will need special attention see below.
  • A lot of people smooth off the edges of the bat rubbing another round piece of wood (The handle of a mallet or bat grip cone) run that along the edge and round it off. Then, initially very gently, start to knock the edges in gradually over the first hour.
  • The willow is very soft and you'll see it easily dent as you start to compress it with the knocking in process.
  • It is going take hours and it is going to get on everyone's nerves because it is noisy.
Problems that they don't tell you about...



8/9/15 Update on this bat.

It's the end of the season and it's going well, no obvious damage to it at all and Joe's score runs with it and I've borrowed it a couple of times and similar to Joe scored runs and if weren't for the bloke at the other end being bowled we both looked set to beat our current best scores in a match with this bat. It seems to be that it's light and has a good pick-up and we've just been able to play with a lot more aggression and positivity. I'm so impressed with the bat I've just ordered one for myself!

I then thought okay who is this company, and what's the deal with the English Willow? Knowing a little bit about this I thought this claim could easily be stretching the truth a little or it could be an outright lie.
Scenario 1. It may be that this is a genus of Willow that is found primarily in the Northern Hemisphere "salix alba caerulea"or White Willow that has the characteristics and properties that suit bat making, has been taken as saplings or seeds and then grown in India. So in essence you could claim that this is 'English Willow' because it's the genus that is found in England?
That sounds to the uninitiated like a fair ploy, but you miss some fundamental facts that are massively important when looking at Bat Willow (salix alba caerulea) above and its properties and characteristics... The growing conditions. I might be wrong, but I've always been under the impression that the worlds best superior willow is grown in a specific area in England - Essex or Suffolk (See map).

And this is down to the climate and geographic features. I have noted whilst researching this article that there companies based in the north of the UK that have started to grow willow for the same purpose see here but having said, that this opening article alludes to the fact that they confirm that they get most of their willow from the region I've indicated.
So any willow that is grown outside of East Anglia (Essex & Suffolk) and stored in conditions and weather found in the same region, doesn't have the same properties and characteristics. Yes it's the same tree genus, but the weather and growing conditions do not produce the same superior willow.
Scenario 2 Even more unlikely - they buy all the duff wood from companies such as JS Wright & Sons and GR Green, put it in containers and ship it out to India to make bats that they can claim are made of English willow? Again, I can't find any evidence of this at all and even if they did - it would be the duff wood that we reject.
Scenario 3 They just lie? The wood is bog standard Kashmir Willow grown in India.
You've only got to type in cricket bat manufacturing in Youtube and you'll get a massive insight into the type of industry this is and the scale of these industries. This video here gives a good over-view...
Furthermore if you try and look deeper into the company that has supplied my bat, you'll struggle to get that far, the details are very scant, but it appears to be a similar small scale company as those you'll find if you search Youtube as suggested above.

Bibliography/Sources

Salix Cricket Bat Company
http://www.salixcricketbats.com/inside-salix/manufacturing.html
Imperfections in Willow
http://www.cricketbatwillow.com/imperfections-in-willow
English Willow facts
http://www.quantumcricket.com/willow.html
JS Wright and sons
http://www.cricketbatwillow.com/
Buying and choosing Kashmir cricket bats
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcnzdUNPKm8
Master Bat makers view on bats
http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/787773.html

Conclusion at this point so far.

I'm quite happy to take the risks involved in this process, it may be the case that both these Ebay bats play like dogs, but if you do your research there are a number of pro's and con's relating to the use of Kashmir Willow bats and this bloke here explains the differences in a neutral way.
The main reason I advocate their use is that neither my son or I bat that well and it's pointless buying an expensive bat. Yes, we could buy cheap Kashmir Slazenger bats where you know what you're buying and you can go to the shops and pick one up and feel the weight and whether it suits you, but a bigger thicker bat such as Bat 3 as far as I'm aware you wont be able to buy for £30. It's a risk, but that remains to be seen. Watch this space.


The conclusion - If you have a look at the other 3 posts where I bought and knocked in a couple of Kashmir bats, you'll see that I've had to come to the following conclusions below. My mission here was to actually test these out and offer some evidence as to why they are either good or bad. Unfortunately, they did turn out to be pretty poor...

(1). There's no apparent grading system for them, you can't seemingly buy Kashmir Willow of better quality. It may be the case that if you're in India there's some way that you can source the wood closer to the point where it's shaped and therefore make choices about the bat you buy, but here in the UK this isn't possible and you have to buy what's on the shelf.

(2). A high quality English willow bat here in the UK is going to cost you almost £500, a bat that costs £30 is never going to match that. But what might that £30 be capable of - it would never be good enough for a bloke that expects to walk out on the wicket and score 50 runs every game, but would it be any good for a tail-ender?

(3). Both the bats were knocked in to some extent despite some of the advice on-line advising not to do so. Both bats despite being knocked in to differing extents suffered major damage within a short period being used in the nets against Bola plastic cricket balls. Neither bat was used against being propelled at a speed faster than 68mph.



Finally my next move is to look at this company as an option...
http://www.msrcricketbats.co.uk/about-msr/



Bibliography/Sources...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZkIV6jz8h4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcnzdUNPKm8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrEUC42Vi5I
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BffU7Fwx3Qk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_e3AFndzmM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgM8ouMuiJQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=410v5fkvoYI
http://www.handmadebats.co.uk/store/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=9
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEbEENWnICo - Jason Mellet
http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/an-employee-shaves-wood-from-the-blade-of-a-handmade-warsop-news-photo/473977596
http://cricketgearreviews.com/the-deep-and-dark-secrets-of-cricket-bat-making/ - Jason Mellet
http://www.planetcricket.org/forums/threads/english-and-kashmir-willow.42007/page-2
http://www.cricketdirect.co.uk/all-about-cricket-bats.aspx
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmwLa5gALio
 - this video is interesting as it's a bat being made in India
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35070666  - Kashmir willow

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Working on my batting

Another session in the nets last night, another hour so we (Joe and I) had about half an hour each and it does feel like it is making a difference. Looking at my batting from the videos in Sept/October I feel that there's been a significant improvement, but I am tempering that with some caution as I do realise that the way the machine operates it might be a lot more consistent than someone bowling at you on a pitch along with all of the variations that the pitch produces? But I think the biggest move forwards is that I just feel more confident and possibly less scared of the ball which are needless to say key factors.

This is me back in September prior to ever batting in the nets against a machine.

Then this below is last night after 3 half hour sessions... Double click the image for the video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgoG7UMnteE



With regards facing real bowlers and the natural inconsistencies they have as an intrinsic aspect of their bowling, when facing my younger son Joe (Bloke in the video above) now, I'm a lot more confident and able to play him with far more finesse and ease, so the prospects going forwards do seem to be positive.

I'm still struggling with balls targeted at the leg-stump area, but increasingly despite the awkward approach and technique I am hitting the ball and for the most part keeping it along the ground, but there's more work to do.

In conjunction with my other recent blogs and the experiments with the Kashmir bats, the bad news for Kashmir bats is that it's not going that well have a look here.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Knocking in, preparing and road testing Kashmir Willow bats - Slazenger V1200 Pemier cricket bat

This is one of a number of blog posts where I'm looking at the Kashmir bats and whether they really are that bad? There's loads of opinion out there about how bad they are, but very little in the way of explanations and evidence. I'm testing out three this season, knocking them in over the winter and then I'll be using them in the nets and over the season in 2016. (See bottom of the blog for the other 2 bats).

Slazenger V1200 Premier cricket bat shop bought here in the UK

This bat is one of three that I've bought over the winter here in the UK to test out how good or bad Kashmir Willow is. This bat is the only one that I've bought from an established retailer, the other two bats (See links at the bottom of the page) are cheap Ebay bats sold as English Willow. This bat at least claims to be Kashmir Willow and I know what I'm buying. Why am I doing this? See here.

If you have a look at the link above you'll have seen we've previously had one of these bats that we partly knocked in and despite this we've been happy with its performance and wear. With that in mind I thought I'd buy another one specifically for myself and spend the winter preparing it as if it were a good quality bat.

There's a lot of conflicting advice and opinion on the internet on the subject of knocking in bats, primarily it's with reference to preparing top quality bats and not ropey cheap Kashmir bats. I questioned one blokes advice that was at odds with Julian Millichamps and I then got into a discussion about Kashmir bats and he was totally dismissive of them saying that they were a complete waste of time and that you shouldn't even knock them in. I kind of get the impression that there's an element of snobbery involved in some people's choices of bat and that many of the opinions regarding Kashmir willow are based on hearsay rather experience. With regards the comment and advice about not knocking in Kashmir willow bats, that seems to me on the basis of recent experience to be nonsense. The image here is a £25 Slazenger bat that was used sparingly over a season primarily against spin bowling during practices, that wasn't knocked in and it now looks like this...
Slazenger Bat - that wasn't knocked in.

Slazenger V1200 Premier cricket bat

The specifications for this bat are... 
Slazenger V1200 Premier Cricket Bat
This Slazenger V1200 Premier Cricket Bat is perfect for an aggressive stroke player due to the premium Kashmir willow construction, providing long lasting durability. 

Cricket Bat
Kashmir willow construction 
Toe guard
Octopus grip

Lightweight  - *Hmm - 2lb 11oz - not massively lightweight.
Slazenger branding

For our full range of
Sports Equipment Sale visit SportsDirect
Product code: 851032
Day One. (20th Sept).One of the things that comes up in one of the  videos I watched is the initial rounding of the edges of the bat. On their video they suggest not doing it (Certainly at the initial stages) with a bat mallet. Instead they suggest that you use a piece of rounded wood (I’ve used my wife’s rolling pin) to rub down the sharp edges rather than smashing them in with a bat mallet. So, unsure whether you do this post oiling or pre-oiling, I’ve done one edge so far prior to oiling and the wood felt pretty hard. So without any oil this rounding process was pretty difficult, but with a little exertion though, there was some softening of the edge.


After doing the one edge I’ve then coated the front face of the bat with Bat oil (Raw Linseed Oil). Don’t use any other type. I’ve drizzled about 1 tea-spoon (5ml) on the face of the bat and smeared it into the wood with my fingers. I’ve also done the edges of the bats trying to avoid getting it on to the stickers. Anything that went on the stickers or looked excessive and not readily absorbed into the wood I wiped off with a tissue.
 
Day Two. (21st Sept).
Coat 2 of 4; The oil applied 24 hours ago has now been fully absorbed into the bat and the surface is dry once again. So this evening I've applied the 2nd coat. Exactly the same process. No knocking in, no rolling of the edges with the rolling pin. Apparently once the 4 coats have been applied the Willow will fairly soft in comparison with the dry state that the bat is delivered in.

One thing I've been made aware of is the fact that my bat has two types of wood found in the tree when it's cut down. Looking at the wood it has two colours. The darker colour wood is the 'Heartwood' and therefore a lot harder than the lighter colour wood and requires more Oiling, so when I'm oiling up the bat from now on I'm going back to the bat a couple of hours later and applying an additional drop on both this darker Heartwood and on the toe. Remember the advice from Warsop (see above) that says that no matter how much you pay for a bat or much you knock it in, a Yorker right on the toe of the bat will potentially kill your bat. To help alleviate this you need to pay particular attention to the toe and Jason Mellet recommends additional oil needs to be applied to the toe in the same way as the heartwood .
Day Three (22nd Sept). Tonight I'm just going to add a drop to the toe and the heartwood and allow the rest of the bat to fully absorb the oil already applied.
Day Four (23rd Sept). No more oiling tonight, the surface of the bat feels waxy, certainly not wet or damp, but I don't want to over oil it, so I'm going to leave it for a few days and see how it looks and feels possibly at the weekend. I've been looking for advice on removing the Toe Guard, but there's not a lot out there, but it is as basic as stick a knife under the edge and slowly ease it off. Again I'll look to do that at the weekend.
26th Sept.
Saturday morning I've worked on the bat with a rolling pin. The advice on one of the sites was to smooth the edges initially by using another rounded piece of wood, so I've used a cooking rolling pin and as you can see it's done the initial part quite well...

This was done by simply rubbing the rolling pin down the edge and you can clearly see that it takes that sharp edge off quite easily and in doing so demonstrates how soft the willow is and how important it is to work on that edge.

Once I'd smoothed off the edges using the rolling pin, I then started to work on them with the bat mallet, small taps all around the edges and on the toe. I've worked on both edges at this stage only lightly and on the toe, more work has been put into the toe than the edges at this stage and I must have only done about 10 minutes of knocking in.

25th October.  I've decided that I'm doing this slowly, so what with it being off-season here I'm only doing this every now over the week, but it's going well. I've been leaving the bat in the garage and I did leave it for a few weeks and then oiled it again with a very light layer. I'm increasing the hardness of the impact with the knocking in hammer and I've probably spent a genuine 40 minutes now of knocking it in over this period of time and so far there are no cracks or damage to any part of the bat. I've still got the toe guard in place - I couldn't figure a way of taking it off without making a complete mess of it. So I'm hitting the toe with the toe guard in place, whether this means I'm compressing the willow enough I'm not sure, but I am increasing hitting the toe harder and it may be because the toe guard is rubber it's just moving (Compressing) with the willow?
 
28th November. Every week generally at the weekends now, I spend a little bit of time continuing to knock this bat in and this weekend I've put a little more Oil on the bat as it had fully absorbed the oil. The striking of the bat is quite violent now and there's a lot of focus on the edges and the toe. Whereas in previous weeks you could see the bat compressing as it was being hit, it now appears to be pretty much done, with virtually no indication of being struck at all. Being someone who doesn't do a job that involves manual labour, I can't smack the bat continually for any period of time, I just haven't got the strength in my forearms, so at most I do this for 3 - 5 minutes at a time. I'm also very conscious of the fact that no-one likes the noise and the fact that it must get on everyone's nerves (Neighbours). I do it in the garage where the bats are stored, but my wife says that she can hear me doing it from inside the house, so if she can hear so too can 30-40 other people.
I'm getting to the point where I doubt whether many people actually complete the recommended 6 hours especially if they've bought the bat for such a small fee, it's almost certain that people must buy these types of bats - use them for a season or in the nets and then either break them or discard them?

7th December

Had a net session a couple of days back and gave the bat a run out and it did okay remembering I can't bat. Seems to have a nice ping in the middle and the balls at 60mph + made no indents at all. Since then I've continued to knock it in and will do so over the coming months, as I've said before, I'm now making no impression on the bat at all and I do wonder if anyone knocks these bats in for any more than half an hour. I'll continue, but I am doing it at about 20-30 minutes per weekend.
25th December 2015
This bat must now be nearing having had its full 6 hours of knocking in, but I'll continue to knock it in over the rest of the winter. I have read recently that there's no limit to how much you might knock the bat in, but six hours to me seems to be a fair enough effort. I'll now order the face and edge tape and it'll continue to be stored outside laid flat in our garage and I'll start to put it to use at the end of January in the pre-season nets. The only other thing I'll do is weigh it and see how it compares to the other two bats that are also being prepared for the same experiments - see below...

28th December 2015

Bad news for Kashmir... Despite all the knocking in and care and attention I've used the bat tonight in the nets against plastic 'Bola' balls - 5oz relatively soft plastic. Unfortunately the bat hasn't been able to handle them despite only being subjected to 150 balls approximately. The willow looks as though and feels as though it is starting to delaminate - above.
 The toe has developed some small cracks as well, so overall this is pretty damning for Kashmir. As far as I'm concerned I've probably knocked this bat in pretty well and it's been stored in good conditions (garage outside - cool and airy). I'm not going to give up quite yet... What I plan to do is glue up the cracks using super-glue and then use bat face tape and edge tape on this bat and then continue to use it in the nets over the coming months and see how it goes once covered in bat face tape. But... It doesn't bode well for Kashmir.

2nd Jan 2016

Just had another look at the now delaminating Slazenger V1200 and pondered what I should do with it, I've considered no longer knocking it in - which as I've said is pretty much done and just simply putting bat face tape over it. I've had a look around on the internet and found this forum discussion here http://custombats.co.uk/cbforum/index.php?topic=30549.0 having read through it, the advice I'm going to take and go forwards with is...

"So I spoke to B3, David to be precise. Decent chap. He advised me to use it until there is a significant enough split in the playing surface so they can get access to the gap and then glue it.
Make it worse. Cruel to be kind.

Seems like I'll have to use a scuff sheet after all when it's repaired".

 
So, I'll continue using it in the nets until it reaches the point where I can get some glue into it. Hopefully that's going to be next Saturday. Watch this space to see what happens next. In the meantime I'm now eyeing up... http://www.barringtonsports.com/products/new_balance_2016_dc_580plus_cricket_bat_2015/26971/view
10th Jan 2016

Used the bat again in the nets against Bola plastic balls with the machine at 65-68mph and it's come through okay. The other Kashmir bat though didn't do so well once we introduced it to some real cricket balls see here Ebay Bat no. 2:11

17th Jan 2016 - 4 months to the start of the season.

I've ordered some Extratec bat facing tape to put on this bat as well, both the Kashmir bats as everyone everywhere says are pretty poor. But, I'll tape it up, put some edge tape on this one as well and see how it goes. I've now pretty much accepted that you get what you pay for with Kashmir and that knocked in or otherwise if you can actually hit a ball they're probably not going to last more than a few games. But if you're a bowler like me, they may last you a season if you rarely hit the ball. I've been working on my batting so I'm hoping to be hitting the ball with a bit more frequency, so I'll give this bat a go and see how it fairs, but to be honest if I use it in winter nets which I may do I doubt if it'll even survive till May when the season starts.

31st Jan 2016 -

The Extratec tape came and it was applied to the bat with edge tape. Not sure now what I'll do with the bat, I may use it in the nets against cricket balls in February and see if it survives. In the short term Joe's going to buy his own English willow bat a Grade 3 New Balance bat and see how that goes? So for the moment no news on the progress of this bat till I start using it in February nets.

The other two bats are here...

Ebay Bat no. 2:11

Ebay Bat no.2

Ebay Kashmir willow bat - purchasing, preparing and road test bat No.2

This bat never arrived. Ebay refunded me in full. I would avoid this company.

This is one of a number of blog posts where I'm looking at Kashmir bats and whether they really are that bad? There's loads of opinion out there about how bad they are, but very little in the way of explanations and evidence. I'm testing out three this season, knocking them in over the winter and then I'll be using them in the nets and over the season in 2016. (See bottom of the blog for the other 2 bats).

Ebay Bat no.2

Continuing with my investigations into the use of Kashmir bats this is the 3rd of the three that I'm preparing. See the links at the end of this post for links to the other two.

Bat 2 as I'm referring to it at the moment is another Ebay bat sold on the promise that it has massive fat edges 45mm thick and can be obtained with a weight between 2lb 12oz and 3lb 3oz. When I first came across the advert I contacted the seller...

Dear Sir,

You've listed the weight between 1250 and 1450 grams, is there any way that if I ordered this bat you could guarantee that I'll receive a 1250 or somewhere near that weight bat? 1450 would be far too heavy for me.


 The seller Sportscentre21 replied quickly with...
Ok no issues�� just let me know after placing the order

The description in the Ebay advert was...

Thick edge English willow (nurtured in india) cricket bat. Massive performance. Cannot be found at this price. This cricket bat comes with various FREE Add-ons' that for protection of the bat and to take care of the bat. Weight and grains may vary. weight of the bat will be from (1250 - 1450) gms. This package includes following items.

= 1 THICK EDGE ENGLISH WILLOW (Nurtured in India) cricket bat.
= 2 PENTA BAT GRIPS
= 1 WELL FINISHED PADDED BAT COVER (NOT THE ORDINARY ONE)
= 1 TOE GAURD
This one again in the region of £30 with the postage. The bat they say is £16.00 just for the bat. What you have to realise is that the blokes that make these bats are being paid approx. 200 rupees a day to do the work, in the UK that's £2.00 and watching the video's these blokes work fast and hard and the yards and buildings they work in are surrounded by thousands of bats. The clefts must cost next to nothing to buy from the Kashmir wood suppliers and when you're paying your staff to make x amounts of bats per day at £2.00 a day, selling one at £16.00 is a good mark up I guess.

Again these are all pretty wild claims for such a cheap bat, there is though in this advert the inclusion of the phrase English Willow nurtured in India. There seems to be no real information on what this actually means and Jason Mellet claims it's a phrase used to confuse an uninformed public. My own understanding is that it's the same variety of willow species that we grow here in the UK under optimum conditions, but grown in India in far from optimum conditions and therefore an inferior product.

I know these bats are cheap and nasty, but the question I'm looking to answer is - if they're knocked in and prepared as though they're expensive bats are they as good as a Slazenger bat that you'd pay a similar price for?




28th November - Ebay Bat 2 Was ordered at the end of November 2015 and now a month later still hasn't arrived. Remember bat 2:11 was ordered and sent within 3 days!

As I write hasn't arrived yet and will take a lot longer to arrive. Looking at the negative comments on Ebay regarding this supplier, some of the them are about the time taken to deliver the bat. I'm expecting it to arrive about Dec 10th it's Nov 28th as I write. What I'll be interested in seeing is the thickness of the edge as this is their USP (Unique selling point) and one of the key reasons I've bought it and no doubt other people will be doing the same. Watching the site, there are a lot of people watching so this feature is something people desire especially given the weight spec's.

25th December - Ebay Bat No.2 as above still hasn't arrived and I've now lodger a formal complaint with Ebay in order to try and speed up the process or maybe get my money back. I'd rather have the bat in order that I have a look at it and see how it compares with the other two bats that I'm readying and comparing. Reviews of the other 2 bats are here...

2nd Jan 2016.

This bat never arrived and Ebay refunded me my money in full. I would advise that you avoid buying from this company.

Bat 2:11 
Bat - Slazenger V1200


Bibliography


http://cricketgearreviews.com/the-deep-and-dark-secrets-of-cricket-bat-making/ - Reference to NI (Nurtured in India) interview conducted with Jason Mellet and an alleged industry insider.





It's obvious, a proper English Willow bat grown in Essex or Suffolk is going to cost you a lot of money. If you see them being sold anywhere else cheap they are not going to be the real deal. If you're looking for a high quality bat, go to a high quality supplier after doing your research and be ready to part with a load of cash.