Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Choose your weapon

So if I'm going to play cricket, I guess I'll need a bat...

Usually when playing sport at school it was my practice to ensure that all my kit was of a reasonably decent standard, so that whatever else happened I was never blaming my tools. Looks like cricket may have been the exception...

I seem to remember when I was at school that I was partial to Gray Nicolls bats. Perhaps the thinking was that I needed a light bat as I was a bit of a Mr Muscle Ad type, and since they scooped bits out they must have had the lightest bats. I remember owning a Gray Nicolls Scoop and later a Scoop 2000, but crucially, these were both cheap, kashmir willow bats with cloth covering the whole thing so you didn't know what a hunk of junk you were buying.

Now I know better. Now I know what I need is an English willow blade with a Sarawak cane handle.

The more I look though, the more I know I'm going to get sucked into spending way too much for something I'll hardly use. Like the guitar I can't play. Or the football boots I've never used. Or the weights I can't be bothered to use. But come on - a man has a right to spend a ridiculous amount on a plank of wood to whack things with...

So I browsed through some brands. There was my old trusty friend Gray Nicolls, but I found their range totally incomprehensible, and if I'd done so poorly with their bats in the past maybe a change was in order. I ruled out Kookaburra - too Aussie, Gunn & Moore - I never liked the people who played with them, Newbury, Bradbury - too posh, Salix, Chase, Hunts County - Who? Puma, Adidas - too German, and what the hell would they know about cricket anyway? So that leaves me with essentially two options.

Slazenger has a number of attractive features, not least the long black cat on the back. Since it's my girlfriend who's inspired this, and since she has her own long black cat, that seems to be a sign. Also their range is pretty straightforward this year, although I have to ask why they have to have yearly ranges in the first place... So a Slazenger V1 seems a likely contender, with Grade 1 willow costing £175 and Grade 2 £140.

However having taken a close look at them I'm seriously tempted to treat myself to a Millichamp & Hall Original. It's got everything I could possibly want. It's British. It's quirky. It's hand-made. It says M&H on the front and M and H happen to be my initials. And the price is pretty much identical to the V1. How very, very tempting. Somehow my life will not be fully complete until I own such a bat.

I don't think I'll get my wallet out just yet, I'll see if I can get a few goes in the nets with various borrowed bats so I get an idea what sort of weight I need, but I can't wait to get my hands on a cricket bat again...

Anyway, here's a nice film of Julian Millichamp, one of the founders of M&H but now running his own separate company in Australia, showing how he goes about making a bat by hand:

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