Cricket bat sizing is a funny thing. It doesn’t appear to be uniform across different manufacturers – especially in junior sizes. Also, the fact that many junior and senior players are using bats that are too big for them is unusual to me. Short adults, in particular, seem fearful of using a harrow size, even though it is perfect for anyone around 5’5”-5’8”. The stigma of it being a “junior” size seems to put them off. But the opposite problem exists too.
Many taller adults, often without thinking, just go for the Short Handle size, as if it’s a one size fits all solution for senior players. Yet anyone standing 6’3” or taller, unless they are very crouched in their batting stance, should be using a longer bat: either a Long Handle or a Long Blade. Short Handle is too small for cricketers of this height. Of course, Short Handle covers the majority of the market, as it is best for players between 5’9” and 6’2”, and most retailers, including ourselves, stock accordingly. However, it amazes me how few taller players seem to have experience of using the longer bats.
I am actually a good case study for this, as it took me a while before I finally realised that, at 6’5”, my Short Handle Salix Praestantia bat – as good as it was – needed replacing as it simply wasn’t long enough for me. Although it was clearly a very impressive bat – possibly the best I had ever used – I found myself getting yorked a lot, and suffering from bad lower back pain during nets and the (very occasional!) long innings I would enjoy out in the middle. I think, instinctively, as the bat is 2.2cm shorter, you find yourself crouching more to overcompensate, which puts extra strain on the back and also makes you less comfortable at the crease. It’s a recipe for disaster. I had tried a longer bat before – a Long Handle Gray-Nicolls Evo to be precise – but I just didn’t get on with it, mainly because the longer handle wasn’t comfortable for me – I found myself fiddling with my grip all too often and my hands never seemed to be in the same place for each delivery. It was all a bit too fidgety. I preferred the snugger fit of the hands that the short handle offers, so I actually sold the Gray-Nicolls bat on eBay and opted for the Salix instead. I was blissfully unaware that there was the perfect solution out there staring me in the face, the Long Blade. When I finally woke up and smelt the coffee, I moved on to a Long Blade, which was custom made for me by H4L and I haven’t looked back. The handle is so much more comfortable for me, I rarely get yorked anymore and my lower back is so much better for it. I will never consider another size now. Long Blade is perfect for me and I have since added a second (slightly lighter) one from Blank Bats to my growing collection.
But what exactly is a Long Blade cricket bat, and how is it different to a Long Handle? Well, the name should give it away! Both bats are the same overall length (34 3/8”) which is 7/8” (2.2cm) longer than a Short Handle bat, but the extra length is in the blade, not the handle. You basically get the same handle length as a Short Handle, just with a 2.2cm longer blade. From experience, I confess that it does make the pick-up a bit more bottom heavy, with more length and mass below the handle but the same weight in the handle, which does nothing for the counterbalancing. This took a while to get used to. A second grip helps balance it out, but it is still a noticeable difference to a Short Handle in the pick-up, which coupled with the fact that Long Blades are always slightly heavier (rarely lighter than 2lb 9oz) is enough to put some customers off, even if they are the right height. But I feel persistence is worthwhile because, for me at least, the pros far outweigh the cons.
Customers seem to agree with me in the main, because we have been inundated with enquiries for Long Blades over the past few months or so, and sold more than ever in 2016. Long Blades have been around for over five years now, but it’s only in the past year or so that the market has finally started to take notice. Now, most tall customers are all over them like a rash. Long Handles meanwhile seem to be dying out, with nowhere near as much demand, despite being a lot more established in the market than its younger brother, Long Blade. Perhaps I was not alone in finding the longer handle too cumbersome and fidgety? We’ve also noticed that some batsmen around the 6’-6’2” mark often consider Long Blades now, and if they stand tall at the crease it is more or less the right size for them, but I think the extra length provides some additional reassurance to these players that they can reach that almost full (but not quite good length) delivery on the half volley more easily than with a Short Handle bat. Such customers also mention that a Long Blade seems to be better for their lower back, and I think they are more likely to opt for a Long Blade than a Long Handle, because the Long Blade has the same length handle to what they are used to.
So, there is clearly a large market for Long Blade bats, which is growing rapidly the more word spreads about them. However, interestingly, many manufacturers have either not noticed this trend, or are possibly too lazy or cautious to embrace it – at least in volume anyway. Gray-Nicolls are a good example. Easily one of the biggest global brands in cricket and steeped in heritage. Also known for their bold innovations in cricket bats, such as their unique scooping technology, you’d think they’d be lapping up a new and emerging trend and supporting it with a big selection, right? Wrong. Although they have been custom making long blade bats for a while now, they don’t really advertise this and don’t offer them as “off the shelf” bats. Not a single one. It’s especially curious when you consider that they are still manufacturing quite a few off the shelf bats in Long Handle. But Gray-Nicolls are not alone. With the exception of Kookaburra, who have dipped their toe in the water and sensibly made the switch from Long Handles to Long Blades a couple of years ago, Long Blades seem to be almost exclusive to the English bat makers at present. However, some of them adopt a similar approach to Gray-Nicolls and only offer them as “made to order” specials and even Kookaburra only have a very small range of Long Blade bats currently. They are still quite hard to source. The demand seems to be greater than the supply at present. Hopefully this will change in the near future, to allow taller players a wider selection and a chance to enjoy the same benefits I have! Surely it is only a matter of time?
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