CANBERRA: A group of scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) have teamed up with the country’s Test wicket-keeper Brad Haddin to unlock the secrets behind a good cricket bat.
They are studying what makes English willow the best bat-making material in the world, compared to other materials, such as Kashmir willow.
Lead scientist Dr Mohammad Saadatfar said the research is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
“This is actually at the cell scale, micron scale, and using the machines in the lab here, we can see inside the wood and compare different species,” he said.
“We are hoping that by comparing all these materials, from a mechanical perspective, from the structural perspective, we’ll be able to tell if we can actually find a substitute for the English willow.”
Dr Saadatfar said the search for a substitute for English willow could make quality cricket bats more affordable.
“It’s too expensive, and it’s just one small part of the world that is producing it,” he underlined.
“You want to diversify, the price is going up every year because it’s just so limited, and there’s no reason why every kid in the world should not play with a top-quality cricket bat.”
Haddin was on hand to speak to the scientists about the difference between English willow and Kashmir willow from a batsman’s point of view.
Haddin — a veteran of 63 Tests, 126 ODIs and 34 T20 Internationals — spent 15 minutes batting with both English and Kashmir willow bats before delivering his verdict.
“The power areas are greater in this one [the English willow],” the 37-year-old said.
“You’ve got to hit that one [the Kashmir willow]. You’ve got a smaller area where you can hit that without the vibration, where as you’ve got a bigger centre with that one [the English willow].”
Haddin said the blade made from English willow was clearly the superior bat.
“The vibration that went up through the handle … the sweet spot is so small on a Kashmir bat compared to an English willow,” he said. “What I look for, the first thing is the weight of the bat. I like a bat probably a bit bigger than most guys.
“The sound of the bat, the way it cushions the ball, and the way that it spits the ball out.”
But the wicket-keeper said he does not agree with concerns about bat sizes.
The International Cricket Council said in February that it was considering a crackdown on bat sizes, to make the game more balanced between bat and ball.
“I’ve gone back and had a look at a few of the bats I used when I first started, they actually feel heavier than what I use now,” the Aussie gloveman stated. “I think the bats are fine.”
Haddin also sawed a bat in half, giving the scientists a head start at investigating the make up of the blade.