After nearly four years of selling other companies’ cricket bats, the summer of 2015 saw the IJC team (namely Chris Beaumont-Dark and myself) finally designing something of our own in the form of “The Platinum” by Newbery Cricket Bat. Approached by the highly regarded bat maker to run an exclusive range, we were flattered and excited and with the only real obstacle being a minimum order of thirty bats – an amount ten times higher than we’d normally stock for one particular bat – we felt it too good an opportunity to pass up.
Having recently launched our innovative “Platinum Lounge”, the timing was spot on. We wanted a flagship product to promote the lounge, which could then in turn be promoted by the lounge. As the Platinum Lounge has its own distinctive branding – almost like a brand within our umbrella brand of It’s Just Cricket – the tie in made perfect sense, but we needed a visual link to the bat and the lounge, so they could easily be associated with each other. We asked Newbery’s expert label makers to use the Platinum Lounge logo and create a fusion between that and the traditional Newbery branding. Almost as if it were a hybrid of traditional Newbery and the Platinum Lounge. We opted for a matt black finish with embossed chrome, which we felt gave the ultimate style and panache that we felt was necessary for the bat as well as an attractive and professional finish. We also asked for the stickers to take up as little of the blade as possible – on both the front and back – as this “minimalist” look is more popular with our customers than the huge, garish, almost comic book stickers that cover many other bats nowadays (we always question what exactly are the stickers hiding underneath?!)
In terms of finishing, we wanted the bat to have a traditional Newbery toe guard, but unlike all other Newbery bats, no Newbery Hammer Edge Sheet. Largely because the bats are so stunning, we wanted customers to at least have the option of their lovely grain structure (often a reason a customer would buy the bat in the first place) not to be obstructed by those rather unsightly Newbery Hammer Edge sheets. So, we kept them au naturale. We also wanted customers to experience a sadly all too rare thing with an English made cricket bat: a free bat cover included with the bat! When you’re spending well over £300 for a bat, we feel it’s only fair to give away a matching bat cover so the customer can protect his/her investment and keep it safe from the perils of a modern day kit bag – with spikes, wirebound scorebooks, helmet grilles and God knows what else sharing the same luggage space! So, voila, suddenly the only Newbery Cricket Bat on the market with a free bat cover is born!
But what about the profile shape, I hear you ask? Isn’t that the most important feature of all, especially for the discerning cricketers that IJC attracts? The answer is yes, and as such, we spent more time devising this than anything else about the bat. Essentially, we collated all the feedback we had received from hundreds of customers over the past three years and hubbled, bubbled, toiled and troubled them into a cauldron and the magic potion of the full convex profile with a duck bill toe came out. The full profile is not “minimal concaving” like so many other bats, but a genuinely full, domed profile, similar to the Newbery Tour, which inspired us so much. With such a profile, the sweet spot is much wider than most other bats, so if you hit the ball off centre, you get an extra few millimetres of wood behind it, which can be the difference between your slightly mishit square cut racing away for four or being chased down by the fielder for two. It does make a difference and our customers know it! The duck bill toe is a very fashionable feature at the moment, largely because it improves the pick-up of the bat. With much of the mass taken away from the very bottom of the bat, you don’t tend to get the same “bottom heavy” feel that you get on other bats, which means that the balance is immaculate. This enables the bat maker to achieve the Holy Grail in bat making: a bat with a low sweet spot that picks up lighter than it is! The low sweet spot – or mid-low as we would describe it – is another very popular feature of a cricket bat, especially here in England where so many pitches are slow and low and rarely bounce above shin height! It also aids taller batsmen and front foot specialists as they get more value for the shots that connect lower down the blade.
The edges needed to be thick, without being ridiculous, and as such came out 35-38mm. So, enough edge there to make a difference to the power, but not so much that you make the opposition think that you have come in purely to have a swing from ball one! No, “The Platinum” is a proper batsman’s bat. The challenge was to get the shape in a low weight, though. As it was so full in shape, with no weight taken out through concaving, this was going to be a tough task! At first, Newbery’s bat makers thought we couldn’t achieve the (most popular) weight of 2lb 8oz or lighter unless we opted for a shorter blade, as they did with their Kudos bat, but we aren’t massive fans of the longer handle that is needed for such bats, so we stressed that if there is any way that they can keep the blade to a conventional length, they should do it – we suggested they contour the shoulders, and lo and behold, they managed it! Largely thanks to this unique contouring around the shoulders of the bat, where some arguably wasted wood has been shaved away giving the shoulders an elegantly sculpted look and, more importantly, reducing sufficient weight, the lighter and most in demand weights became a reality. It really worked – we even managed to get some as light as 2lb 7oz in our first batch and none heavier than 2lb 10oz!
The handle was designed as semi-oval at the bottom, which caters for both bottom handed and top handed players: enough ovalness for the top handed player to feel some restrictions for bottom handed play, but round enough for the wristy bottom handers to manoeuvre without too much difficulty. Finally, the grip was a black scale grip for the first batch – the same grip that we use for most other bats in the Platinum Lounge – but then when we sold out of these grips, we had to use Newbery’s own black chevron grips. This was possibly the most controversial design feature of all as Chris and I are quite vocal about our dislike for chevron grips in our YouTube videos, but we created an offer of a free 2nd grip (of the customer’s choice) for all Platinum bats, which means they can basically get rid of the pick-up and feel problems that can exist with only the thin chevron applied. We plan to design our own unique black grip for future batches and acknowledge that we must go the extra mile to distance ourselves from the competition and create a wholly IJC designed product. Still, for a first effort, we are very proud of the outcome and customers seem to agree as, since getting the Platinum bats in stock, they have outsold all our other bats by a ratio of over 5:1 and the feedback on the pick-up and stickers has been unanimously positive – even the keyboard warriors on the Custom Bats Forum liked it, and you know you’re doing well if you can please a tough crowd!
As some of you will know, we are a stickler for quality here at IJC – especially when it comes to our cricket bats. As such, we insist on handpicking every single bat we stock to ensure that they are as good as they possibly can be and our customers are getting the very best value for money available anywhere. Even though “The Platinum” is exclusive to It’s Just Cricket – no other shop can or will ever stock it and Newbery don’t even sell it directly themselves – we still wanted to be sure of the quality, so we went down to sunny Hove and chose 22 of the 40 SH bats that they had made up for us. The 22 were selected based on looks, performance off the mallet and pick-up and both Chris and myself had to agree on the quality before setting them aside. We also handpicked eight harrow bats, albeit from a smaller pool (of ten), but we were no less impressed with the looks or performance of these.
So, the first batch was 22 SH bats and 8 in harrow, the latter being ideal for shorter adult players (5’5″-5’8″ in height) as well as juniors. All bats are handmade in England, by the master craftsmen at Newbery, and all made from the finest Grade 1+ English Willow, which is the same quality wood used by international cricketers.
So, the reseller became a designer! Some customers have even suggested we take the next step and actually make the bats ourselves now – a nice idea, it’s just a shame that I was so terrible at woodwork at school!
For more information on “The Platinum” by Newbery Cricket Bats, click HERE
As a thank you for reading this post, enjoy Free Knocking-In (worth £20) when ordering any Newbery “The Platinum” Cricket Bat. Simply quote discount code BLOGPLATINUM on our website, http://www.itsjustcricket.co.uk