Cricket is undoubtedly one of the most popular sports in the world right now, especially in India. The game has seen several changes and has developed quite a lot since the first international match that was played in the year 1844. There have some significant advancements in the sport with respect to technology like DRS, new formats like T20s, new balls like pink-ball etc. However, there is one thing that has remained constant in the sport in many years i.e 'Bats'.
Since many years, there have been only two types of bats which have been commonly used in international cricket - English Willow and Kashmir Willow. Firstly, they are called willows because they have been derived from the willow plant of Salix alba. There was a new type of bat introduced in the last decade, called 'Mongoose Bat', however, that only differed in the shape and design. The core of the bat was made of willow only.
Invention of Bamboo Bat - The future of the game?
However, there is a latest entrant in the world of cricket which could change the way the game has been played over the years. There is finally competition for willow bats in the form of laminated bamboo. Yes, you read it right! Dr. Darshil Shah and co-author Ben Tinkler-Davies have conducted a study which reveals that the laminated bamboo bat was more robust, offered a better 'sweet spot' and delivered more energy to the ball on impact in comparison to the normal willow bats which are currently being used in cricket.
The study was published in the Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology and have certainly taken the custodians of the game by surprise. However, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which frames the rules of the sport, termed the prototype of the laminated bamboo bat as illegal since the current law bans any kind of lamination of the blade, except in junior bats. However, MCC did mention that it is a welcome move and the rules would need to be altered to allow these kind of changes in the sport.
How could the invention benefit the game and the fans?
While the bamboo bat is 40% heavier in comparison to normal bats, the study stated that it outperforms the willow bat in all other aspects. "It's stiffer, which means the ball is going to fly off the bat better. It's harder, which means you don't have to spend hours knocking it in and it's also a lot more sustainable," Ben Tinkler-Davis added.
Dr. Shah explained how the bamboo bat could bring the balance between bat and ball on the field of cricket. Reflecting on reduced thickness of the bat, he said, "If the bat’s edges are much thinner, while retaining the sweet spot, batsmen will get full value for middling the ball. It would be a win-win scenario for batsmen and bowlers.” This would indeed make cricket much more fun for the viewers as quality cricket will be rewarded and the contest between bat and ball will become more evenly balanced.
Apart from these, he also added the overall costs of a bat would come down, making it much more accessible for a larger audience. Dr. Shah believes that bamboo bats would be available for everyone at 30% lesser prices because of the easy availability and supply of bamboo across the globe as compared to willow.
Why should cricket custodians look at the option of 'Bamboo Bat'?
One of the messages that the developers came across following the invention was - “Why fix things, when it isn’t broken?” However, Dr. Shah believes that it could well be the need of the hour in times to come. In a conversation with The Indian Express, he stated, "English willow has been used to manufacture cricket bats for the past 200 years. There are over 10,000 species of wood… so why would you want to make it with just one material that’s in short supply. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. For example, you don’t make a sitar with one particular tree. You use different varieties to make them. So, why should cricket bats be any different?"
Dr. Shah also added that there is a huge shortage of willow supply across the globe. On the contrary, he mentioned that this shift would make a lot of sense because bamboo is found in abundance in countries like Mexico, China and South-East Asia - who have also shown keen interest in cricket in recent years.
While the developers have not yet approached any cricket governing bodies yet to present the idea, it is certainly quite an exciting invention which will be looked upon by various cricket experts, bodies and custodians in times to come. Could 'Bamboo Bat' turn out to be the future of cricket because of the factor of sustainability? Let's wait and watch!