Bats and pads and gloves and boxes….
Like most sports cricket has a range of kit which is unique. Most of this kit is used with protection in mind, after all a leather ball bowled at 70mph plus can hurt.
This lens will take you through the various pieces of equipment used during the game of cricket. Whilst it’s not aiming to be an exhaustive list it will cover the most commonly used piece when batting. We’ll start at the head and work downwards finishing with the legs.
Cricket bats are the one item of equipment that most players cherish. Few will forget their first bat, even fewer the bat they used to score their maiden hundred. Up until recent years (where the process became automated) a considerable amount or work was put into getting a bat ready to play, which only served to increase the affection lavished on it. This section will talk briefly about cricket bats, although I will go into more detail in a lens dedicated to the topic.
Bats are made from either English or Kashmir willow. English is deemed to be the highest quality, with Kashmir reserved for lower range or junior bats. All bats are comprised from a cleft of willow which is drawn down and shaped and into which a bamboo handle is inserted. The handle will then have a string binding and rubber grip applied.
Preparing for a new bat can take up to six or seven hours, although the use of machines has reduced this time. Once oiled and knocked it, the bat is generally ready to go. I’ve added a video below which explains how to prepare a bat in more detail. A club player can expect a bat to last for two to three years. Professional players will get through maybe 3 or 4 bats a year, sometimes more.
When buying a bat the main thing to look for is the quality of the wood and the ‘playability’ of the bat. As a general rule of thumb you’re looking for a nice clean looking piece of wood, which has around 8 grains on the face. When a ball is bounced upon the face you want a good rebound to occur. Of course, due to willow being a natural material there is variation which is why it is recommended you buy in person and not on-line.
As the name suggest this piece of kit protects the head and face. Made from a cloth covered, high density plastic with a metal grill, the helmet is a relatively new bit of kit, only in use for around 30 years or so. Original designs came with a perspex grill however this was later abandoned due to the potential for the material to shatter.
In the past 10 or so years it has been compulsory for junior players to wear a helmet when batting and when standing up to the wicket if keeping. This has led to most players now using a helmet regardless of the speed of the bowling.
Helmets of a more modern design will have foam inserts to help with getting a comfortable fit, or may have a ratchet system operated at the back in order to tighten the helmet. They may also be left with the plastic finish as opposed to the older style of cloth covering. The ideal fit is a helmet which doesn’t move when the head is shaken. However as it may be worn for long periods it is important not to have it too tight.
The ideal setting for the grill is a space which is big enough to see out of, but small enough so the ball in unable to squeeze through. Remember, at high speeds the ball has more chance of getting through so this spacing is critical. Too much and you may just up wearing one.
Normally an optional piece although common in the professional game, the chest guard protects the upper torso.
The chest guard sits on the side of the body which faces the bowler, roughly between the arm pit and the hip. It is common for the guard to be shaped with two dips towards the middle to allow for movement. Some guards will have a a single strap which runs around the body, others will have straps which run over the shoulder (chest guards by Aero are a good example of this design).
Materials used tend to be high density foams either with or without a cloth covering.
Worn on the arm which faces the bowler (left arm for right handed batsman) the arm guard protects the lower arm, from wrist to elbow. They tend to be made from similar material to chest guards and again some will be cloth covered. They are secured by two straps with velcro fastenings, one at the wrist and one higher up.
Tend to be popular with junior and professional players.
Batting gloves come in a range of colours although only two main ‘designs. These designs are commonly called sausage fingers (as they resemble sausages) or square fingers. Both offer equal levels of protection and it comes down to personal preference as to which one to choose. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the squarer design tends to have more articulated joints and as a result can be more flexible. Extra padding around the thumb will be found on the hand which faces the bowler.
Gloves are made mainly from leather although do contain other materials. Sponge or foam will be used as padding in the fingers. The palm may be made from a different type of leather than the rest of glove, in order to minimise sweating. Gloves normally come with a cotton wrist band which is also where the Velcro fastening is located.
When buying gloves it is important to get a tight fit but one that still leaves plenty of room to flex the hands. After use it is best to leave gloves out to dry naturally – other wise the palms can get dry and brittle.
Thigh pads used to be fairly simple, similar in shape to a chest guard. They sat on the outer thigh, fastening with two straps. Generally they comprised light high density foam construction with a multiflex design (scored lines to aid articulation). Often they were towelling backed for comfort and to help wick sweat away from the body. However, in recent years there has been a trend fro all in one systems, as in the picture attached.
These all in one systems are made from the same materials but often come with additional pads. Commonly there will be an inner thigh pad some form of protection for the hip. Extra straps are included, all adjustable for comfort. Where as before you would a generic sizing (boys, large etc) these all in systems tend to be more tailored and are often sized according to the length of the thigh. Various manufacturers use various methods so it is important to check before you buy.
These all in one systems do offer extra protection and for the most part comfort. As ever though, which ever one you go for comes down to personal choice.
Box (Abdo Guard)
Not a great deal to say on this although it is a vital piece of kit. Made of high density plastic with a padded outer ring, the job of the box is to protect the genitals from injury. Shape has varied little over the years although some designs have an elongated lower section.
Batting pads are worn, funnily enough on the legs. They serve to protect the ankle, shin and knee from being hit by a cricket ball. They are pretty much an essential piece of kit, along with batting gloves, helmet and box. Modern day pads are made up of durable, strong and ultra light synthetic material like PVC to avoid fatigue caused by wearing them for a long time. High density foam is another popular material as it provides strength whilst being lightweight.
Pads always have a ‘knee roll’ which is a strip of padded material which sits in front of the knee. As well as providing extra protection the knee roll serves as a rough size guide – you want the knee roll to be pretty much where your knee is.
Traditional pads have a distinct design with three or more raised ‘bars’ on the front. These bars stem from the use of cane to provide the ‘skeleton’ of the pad as well as protection. Some modern pads have moved away from this style although it is still common. The other main design feature is the use of three velcro straps to secure the pad although some junior pads may only have two. The use of velcro is designed to make pads quick to remove as well as having a high degree of adaptability.