One of the many roles I operate here at It’s Just Cricket is repairing damaged cricket bats, and without trying to sound too complacent, sometimes many of these jobs I do could easily be done by the customer themselves. I can concede, however, that there may be cases that require my skills, or in severe cases those of our repairs specialist, who has been repairing bats for nearly half a century!
In the modern era for cricket, there is a constant argument – almost a complaint illustrated by many cricketers – that modern day bats aren’t built to last anymore, almost destined to break – for whatever reason. This notion rather annoys me, but it is true that with the vast amount of televised games these days, there have been several recorded cases of bats breaking, sometimes in half when the camera is on them, which cannot always be the best advertisement for the brand that the cricketer is sponsored by! But I don’t think for one moment that a bat maker has designed and made a bat with the intention that it will break – that would be a complete and utter waste of their time and resources.
However, what does rather grind my gears is how het up and pedantic some cricketers can get when their cricket bat picks up the most minor of damage, such as a surface crack. Most modern bats come with a twelve month warranty, whilst some bats come with a two year warranty, like our own Newbery Platinum – meaning that if the bat is to break in an unusual way, such as a manufacturing fault or through storm damage to the willow, the customer is entitled to a free repair or in certain cases, a free replacement. Nevertheless, many cricketers can kick up a fuss when their newest blade has picked up a minor crack on the edge after an innings or two, or even the slightest surface crack on the face during the knocking-in process, some of which (cracks running vertically down through the grain) are actually a good sign and something we want to see in the bats we knock in! Needless to say, this sort of damage is considered “general wear and tear” and therefore not covered under the warranty, and any repair, if necessary, would have to be paid for by the customer.
The trouble with this sort of minor damage, including the vertical cracks that we actually want to see, is that customers feel like they’ve been cheated, as if it should not be allowed to happen on a new bat and that their bat should be indestructible, especially as they have spent a great deal of time and money on it. It’s rather funny when you look at some of the bats currently used by pros, who will carry on with battle damaged bats and will do anything to keep some of their beloved sticks going; often you’ll see an Alastair Cook, Brendon McCullum or Joe Root batting with their favourite bat that’s hanging on for dear life, held together with bits of edge tape, often applied by themselves.
Okay, so they may get their bats for free and go through far more over a season, maybe even using multiple bats for just one innings, but it shouldn’t matter how much you’ve spent on a new bat really – whether it’s less than £100 or if you’ve splashed the cash on a £500 stick – they are all made from willow, a natural product and a soft wood that is susceptible to damage no matter what the cost is.
As a matter of fact, a £500 bat was one of the first bats I repaired, where I had to seal up some rather extreme edge damage on a Gray-Nicolls Legend – what a baptism of fire that was! For many years, as a self-confessed “Cricket Badger”, I have been following Gray-Nicolls bat maker Chris King on Twitter. I found myself intrigued at how he repairs bats for his pros and for the amateur players who send broken bats his way. He often has to deal with botched DIY repair jobs, such as people trying to repair their bats with all manner of paraphernalia such as nails and screws, or even recovering failed attempts at simple maintenance jobs, such as removing an anti-scuff sheet – something we have shown how to do on our YouTube channel, here. For edge damage such as on this Legend, I had taken the practices I had seen on Chris’s Twitter into action: opening up the cracks further with a knife, which sounds rather odd, but it meant that I was able to fill the cracks with glue, press the wood back into place, before sanding the wood down to create a smooth finish. To finish off and provide the bat with extra protection against further damage, I covered the edge with fibreglass bat tape before adding an anti-scuff sheet.
I’ve been doing these sort of repairs since I joined the It’s Just Cricket team in early November and everything I’ve done is nearly entirely self-taught. I am now regarded as the ‘repairs specialist’ here! I wholeheartedly believe that every cricketer should be prepared for the worst, and have either in their kit bag or at home some fibreglass edge tape, spare anti-scuff sheets and sandpaper, in various grades from 80 grit (coarse) to 240 grit (ultra-fine) for these minor edge cracks, as they can be sanded out in a matter of minutes. Linseed oil and bat wax is also advisable to properly maintain the bat and ensure that it doesn’t dry out – a major reason why these cracks appear in the first place! A bottle of white spirit is also something I’d recommend: for removing the residue after taking off either the stickers, scuff sheet or fibreglass edge tape. None of it will cost an arm and a leg, and all you need is a touch of research and a bit of elbow grease.
Trust me when I say that minor repairs on cricket bats are far from rocket science: it is easier to do than you might think. Of course, if you haven’t got the time, aren’t very practical or if it’s serious damage, you can then get someone like myself or a repairs specialist to mend your bat for you. However, if it’s something incredibly minor, like a surface crack, it’s worth putting in a little research and application – it’ll save money, time and effort for both you and the person repairing your bat. Most of these minor dings, cracks or marks won’t affect the durability or performance of the bat at all, and sometimes it’s just not worth making a mountain out of a molehill. Some bats can still perform incredibly well even after picking up damage. Some players just decide to keep the bat going until it completely dies and they can often last longer than expected. Cricket bats are generally very durable. Bottom line, if your bat picks up some minor damage, it’s more than likely not worth bothering the retailer, bat maker or company you got it from, but if it’s something you’re still worried about, get yourself some sandpaper, try and iron out the damage and see what you can do yourself before making something out of nothing.