Recent innovations in cricket bats

The concept is simple, and one that is tried and tested in other sports such as tennis and golf. Wood is fragile and there are far smarter materials available - ones that are stiff or absorb shock better. In step with these scientific principles, manufacturers of tennis racquets and golf clubs have shifted to carbon fibre and titanium - lessening vibrations and in some instances, enabling an increased sweet spot. In cricket, different materials were tried over the years and have met with stiff resistance by the guardians of cricket laws. It was in 1977 that early research revealed that the batted ball speed of an aluminum baseball bat was about 3.85 mph faster than a wood baseball bat. Before long, an aluminum cricket bat, the ComBat, was in production.

Posing with the ComBat In 1979, in a test against West Indies, Dennis Lillee used the aluminum ComBat. That was not against the rules and this particular bat was already being bought by schools because of its durability. 12 days later, he used it again, this time against England on the fourth day of the first test at Perth. When he straight drove a ball by Botham for 3 runs, Greg Chappell thought it would have gone for a 4 with a conventional bat, so he brought out a wooden bat for his mate. Meanwhile, English captain Mike Brearley complained to the that the metallic bat was damaging the cricket ball. This led to a heated discussion following which Lillee, in apparent disgust, threw "the offending lump of metal fully 40 yards towards the pavilion." An act for which he was let off with a warning. [Click here for a video of the incident.] Lillee was not oblivious to the sales potential, having gotten the bat signed by members of either team. Brearly, the party-pooper, was smart and he wrote signed the bat "Good luck with the sales". The bat that Lillee used is currently on display at the 'Bat and Ball' inn in Bangalore. After the game, the ComBat sold like hot cakes few months, with the inventor Graeme Monaghan reportedly sharing the profits with Lillee. But that came to an end some months later in early 1980, when ICC ensured that the laws of the game were amended, specifying that bats had to be made from wood. In 2004, Kookaburra launched the Big Kahuna Ricky Ponting - this one was made of wood but was "strengthened" by a thin carbon graphite strip at the back which was thought to give him extra power and, MCC feared, "may damage the ball." Of course, Ricky was allowed to use the bat for 53 ODI and test matches and enjoyed a

too bad because several more were embracing it including Justin Langer. which prompted Kookaburra to withdraw the graphite bats from international cricket . an oval handle (again for greater feel) which was set slightly forward so that the line of the handle follows the line of the blade's natural bow. Readers might remember that in 2006 ICC proclaimed that these bats contravened MCC Law 6. (The bat is acceptable for domestic league cricket and is still sold in USA by real sweet spot was the inches between his ears! The Graphite laced Kookaburra! The excitement was shortlived. it forgot to specify whether it was OK to use composite handles! In fact. known to give the bat greater feel and 'whip' using improved versions of traditional material such as a stronger Irish linen thread (to tune the flex of the handle). Not that it had anything to do with the bat . Nathan Astle and Sanath Jayasuriya.remarkable run of form . So the scientific community continued their efforts to make a handle that was lighter in weight and capable of shock absorption . In its haste.13 for the year in tests).searching for newer materials from the laboratory. . the Cricket's Law 6 does not say a word about handles! John Newbery had successfully innovated in this area decades ago coming up with the (then) revolutionary treble spring handle.getting the second highest annual run tally in history in 2005 (average of 67.

But the stiffer the bat." His team also wanted to expand the "sweet spot" of the cricket bat. a team led by Professor Sabu John. He was assisted by Tom Molineaux also of RMIT. "How I made the connection. an expert in smart materials from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. The team developed a new handle made of a carbon fibre shell containing a polymer insert that absorbs vibrations.Professor La Brooy. say. Prof Sabu John of RMIT University poses with the Smart Cricket Bat Generally. No longer would you just have a sweet spot but a sweet zone. John said in 2004: "We have to have a fine balance between comfort for the batsman and energy back to the ball. the greater the shock! Speaking about new technologies for a more advanced bat. commenced research on handles and inserts for cricket bats that could reduce vibrations and dampen shock. had already imagined a bat with a handle that was lighter which would mean that the weight could be shifted to the blade. the stiffer the bat. I'm not sure. the area on a bat that can hit a ball hard yet not cause unpleasant vibrations for the player. They also embarked on research in the use of sensors akin to an "active vibration control system" prevalent in other sports equipment." the Melbourne professor said. . But I realised if a bat handle were made of. more weight could be shifted to where the hitting was done. In 2004. the faster the ball will come off the bat. formerly of Boeing. fibreglass.

Such systems use piezoelectric materials.called Smart Cricket Bat bearing the Kookaburra label. Not to be outdone. the bat . In 2008. of course without the sensors to match the Smart Bat! The bats are the Gray Nicolls Fusion." So in effect. wood or twine are restricted to one-tenth for Grades A and B and one-fifth for Grade C. Matrix Concorde and the Puma Stealth. was patented as the world's first bat with active vibration control that reduced vibration by 46%. a company that makes sensors. These bats with smart handles were banned from international cricket.25 in/8. Since 2008. By 2007. lighter and shock absorbing. . support the research. Matrix and Powerbow. integrated with a chip that are built into the bat's handle. The system was not something that was entirely devised by the geek squad in the lab! The $600. MCC released the Appendix E to the Laws of Cricket which stated that: "As a proportion of the total volume of the handle. manufacturers have focused on tinkering with shape of the bat itself taking off in areas untouched by GN and SG. cricket bat manufacturer Kookaburra Sport and Davidson. Gray Nicolls.000 project was supported by Australian Research Council.26cm into the lower portion of the handle.stiffer. graphite or kevlar handles with same principles . The sensor passes a pulse of voltage which triggers the active vibration system to (a) generate waves in the opposite direction cancelling out the original vibrations or (b) absorb the shock waves and covert them into heat or light energy (imagine a bat that lights up on impact!). In October 2008. and electromechanical devices. innovation once again met with resistance from the makers of the Laws. who in the eighties made bats without shoulders. Such materials must not project more than 3. Puma and Matrix created bats with lightweight carbon. Gray Nicolls brought out a double-sided bat which is expected to be attractive for Twenty20. materials other than cane.

In has a shorter blade and a "Fish-Fin" handle. designed to provide 20% more power and 15% more bat speed (and hopefully 100% more runs!). Newbery followed with the Uzi which it calls an ideal Twenty20 bat . . Mongoose (sold exclusively by in USA) launched its bat designed with 33% shorter blade and 43% longer handle.

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