Saturday, 25 February 2012

Willow weep for me

My new bat arrived on Thursday, hopefully my last for a while. If I'm honest buying it was pure retail therapy, as my grandmother is rather unwell at the moment and I needed something to cheer me up. If that was ultimately the goal then it worked. Unwrapping the packaging, opening up the very swish bat carrier it came in and seeing the bat for the first time was a nice tonic. I'm very impressed by Aedos, they've been very helpful, eager to make sure I'm satisfied and they seem to have come into the business with the right ideas. The stickers, and the whole brand identity, is pitched pretty well I think - not too fussy, not too dull, just a quiet kind of eye-catching.

Also given that the person who gave me my love of cricket was my old Latin and Classics teacher, I suppose it's inevitable that I should be drawn to a batmaker whose products are named after Greek Gods. My bat is a model called "Zeus Limited Edition" (in my case an edition of one) but I prefer girls' names for my bats, and amongst the leading contenders this time is Athena - a daughter of Zeus, "shrewd companion of heroes and Goddess of heroic endeavour" according to Wiki. Well I'm neither a hero nor are my endeavours particularly herioc, but lets not let too many facts get in the way of a good story. She's also the patron of Athens, so perhaps given the state of the country of which Athens is the capital right now this could be taken to represent a sizeable chunk of money wantonly and unnecessarily spent...

As for the bat itself, Ollie at Aedos said it was a "good 'un" and he wasn't wrong - eight straight, evenly spaced grains with virtually no flaws. To be honest it did look a little strange at first; I'm not used to seeing pale willow with no oil on, and it was so highly polished it almost looked like it was made of plastic. The first backlift and swing through felt very nice though, and I'm amazed how much wood they've managed to leave on it - certainly it looks a lot heavier than it actually is. Perhaps they found a particularly light cleft of willow? They seem to have reduced the weight mainly in the top half of the blade with the bottom half still full of meaty goodness, but unless you picked it up or really took a good look at it you'd think it was a perfectly normal bat. (photos are below the fold)

I'm now at the "toddler with a kitten" stage - desperate to play around with it but with the ever-present danger that I may overdo things and cause damage. I've rearranged the grip to my liking, and (after much agonised procrastination) I've taken off the side stickers, given it a thin coat of oil on the face and edges and left it to soak overnight. I often have a tendency to over-oil my bats, but with this one I'm trying my best not to. I've made a start with the knocking-in, and then once that's done and the facing's on it'll be ready to go.

Knocking in is such a curious process, and I find it pretty terrifying. Hit the bat too hard too early and you can damage it before you've even used it, but do it too gently and the bat will be vulnerable later on. Most people seem to think two hours is sufficient but I ramp up the force of the blows so gradually and furtively I can quite easily spend double that amount of time on it. My last bat was prepared over the course of the Perth Ashes Test, a full three nights' work! Of course, the biggest risk with knocking in is that since you need (and most probably will be forcibly required) to undertake it well out of earshot of all human life, pretty soon you're liable to go a little stir-crazy, hearing all sorts of faint high-pitched sounds within the loud bangs that the bat may or may not actually be making. Are these good? Are they bad? Am I imagining them? No man can say...

Anyway, enough of my waffle. Feast your mince pies on this lot:

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