Ok, so you have bought yourself a nice, brand new cricket bat then, you cant wait to get out into the nets and use it. However, unless you are a professional who gets their bats for free, or you are rich enough to buy a new bat every few weeks, this is the worst thing you can do. Below I will walk you through the technique for knocking in your cricket bat:
Equipment needed: Wooden bat mallet, Linseed or bat oil, a clear protective face for the bat, an old ball, finishing grade sandpaper.
1. The very first step is to get your mallet and to very lightly brush it off the edges of the bat, starting from the top of the edge and working down. You will see some slight denting, but this is normal. What you don't want to do is to hit the edge hard, as this will start to crack it, you should barely be putting any force into this. This should be done for about 10 times on each edge (a time is going from the top to the bottom of the edge) each time gradually putting a little bit more force into each stroke, in the end you should be hitting the edges with a medium force, so you can feel the bat trying to twist in your hand with the stroke, but you can still control exactly where you want to hit. Ideally your bat will not have a protective face on it, as this makes oiling harder. If it does, no worries but you must take the face off after a season.
2. The same process should be repeated for the face of the bat, working your way this time from the toe of the bat to the shoulder. However, do not hit the splice! (This is the bit where the handle is glued in a 'V' to the blade of the bat) Again you should see a little bit of denting on the face of your bat, this is perfectly normal as the wood is very soft, the process of knocking in a bat compresses the fibres of the wood and makes them tougher, and less likely to split.
3. Now, by this time you should have done about an hour or two of knocking in the bat, and are probably thoroughly bored and want to use the thing, sorry, but you still have some work to do! Again, on both the edge and the face of the bat you should work your way 10 times with ever increasing force, by the tenth time, you should be hitting the face of the bat with the same, and sometimes greater force than the bat will normally be used to in a match, however, please do not do this to the shoulder of the bat, it is a weak point and easily split, use the medium force on the shoulder all the time. Also do not neglect the toe of the bat, this is an important bit to knock in and should be done with the same force as is used on the shoulder. N.B When I say the toe, I mean the very base of the face of the bat, do not turn the bat upside down and hit the bottom of it! Later on, another thing you can do is to hold the mallet upside down and the bat in your other hand and to swing the bat towards the mallet as if playing a stroke.
4. Ok, so that is the mallet work out of the way with, and you should have done roughly 3-4 hours of work on the bat. The next stage is the first coat of oil. Get an old rag and soak it in Linseed oil or specialist bat oil. you should then rub this over the whole of the bat, except for the splice and handle. Leave this stored horizontally for 12 hours.
5. When you come back to the bat, you may see little deposits of oil on the surface, no worries, just get the rag and rub these away. The important thing is not to over oil your bat, one more light coat after this will be easily enough for the whole season. Many people put far too much oil onto their bats, causing them to gain quite a bit of weight and in the end deadening them well before they should be.
6. The next step requires you to grab a mate, and an old cricket ball. Get your friend to give you light throw downs on the full (no bounces). Start off by just blocking these back to them and slowly work up to playing strokes, but no full blooded ones yet! This should be done for another hour. Don't worry if you see some seam marks on the bat, again this is natural.
7. You should now attach a clear bat face to the bat, this will help to reduce cracking in it, and if correctly used, will prolong the life of your bat, try to get no air bubbles when applying this. Newbery's Hammeredge bat sheets are in my opinion the best for this as they are thin, yet still protect.
8. Take your bat to your nets and use there for a couple of weeks, after this, your bat is ready to be used in a match.
9. At the end of the season, remove the bat face and oil the bat again. The reason for removing the bat face is that if you leave it on, the face of the bat will start to dry out and crack due to it not having any oil. To remove the face, pull it off from side to side, minimising the amount of wood that lifts in the process. Once this is done, get some finishing grade sandpaper and rub down the face and edges of the bat before oiling.
10. Apply a new bat face and use the bat for the next season!
Do Not's when knocking your bat in:
Use a metal hammer/mallet, for obvious reasons!
Hit the back of the bat with the mallet, this will damage it!
Soak your bat in oil, as it will deaden it.
Use a new ball straight away, these are very hard and will damage the bat, they have to be played in with an old ball first.
Those are the stages for knocking in your bat, personally I have knocked in a lot of bats by hand, usually to generate a little bit of money, so I have come up with this technique for knocking in and caring for the bats. I will add that sometimes a bat will break during knocking in, or soon afterwards. This is generally not your fault, but one of the bat- you do get some hidden faults in bats, or just a bad one! Also how hard the wood is does sometimes affect how quickly/slowly you move through the stages, if it is very soft wood, you need to spend a lot more time on the early stages.
Also knocking in helps increase the length of time a bat will perform for, but will not increase its performance, if anything, it will be slightly the opposite, but not enough to notice. Professionals do not knock their bats in as they have several and will just be given a new one if they break it!
If you want to learn more, or if you wish to send a bat to me to knock in, please contact me at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org and put in the title Bat knocking in.
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