As I have illustrated before, the cricket equipment market place is fiercely competitive. The market in 2016 is awash with brands – from the big global heavyweights to the small boutique brands, which seem to increase in number year on year. However, this saturation of companies can often make it difficult, even confusing, for a player choosing their new gear. None more so than in the glove market…
Batting gloves have come a long way over the years, some distance from the days of when the protection consisted of strips of spiked or dimpled rubber and had open palms (something that would be unthinkable in today’s game!). The design, finishing and protection has improved greatly within this modern age of technology, making gloves better and better, year after year. The sheer amount of choice now too, even from within one brand, isn’t such a bad thing either, meaning there’s a glove out there to fit all tastes.
The cricket batting glove is interpreted in a number of different ways. As a rule of thumb, there are two different types: sausage or split finger, but it is actually far more complicated than that – the interpretation of glove design is incredibly varied, perhaps even within the same brand.
Firstly, the sausage finger design, which is the more traditional approach and still favoured by many professional players, looking like – you guessed it – sausages being placed over the top of the batsman’s fingers. Many would argue that these gloves provide slightly more protection compared to the more modern split finger glove, due to the lack of splits present in the glove, but the one piece nature can make sausage finger gloves harder to ‘break in’ out of the packet. This factor can be compounded with the extra protective attention paid to the lead two fingers on the bottom of the glove, with the popular yet bulky fibre shield protection hampering flexibility.
Recently, companies have tinkered with the design of the sausage finger glove to make them more flexible, or even providing a hybrid design such as the Gray-Nicolls Powerbow 5 1250 gloves, which combines both split and sausage finger designs, with a split design on the fourth finger and pinkie, whilst the sausage design remains on the lead two fingers of each hand, where arguably more protection is needed.
The split fingered glove is the glove that is interpreted in a number of different ways in terms of functional design. The basic principle of a split fingered design is to provide the batsman with a glove that has a greater amount of flexibility from the first use, compared to the sausage glove. There can be a trade off, with the amount of splits exposing vulnerable areas of the finger. In recent years, more attention has been made to provide extra protection, particularly in top end split finger gloves, by adding protective inserts to every segment of the glove whilst also paying extra attention to the lead two fingers of the bottom hand, but retaining that flexible feel.
The amount of splits or even the shape of the splits can vary, much more so than the shape of the sausage finger gloves. Some models adopt a simple horizontal ‘flat’ split, where the sections are square, whilst other interpretations include the ‘V’ split, often referred to as the ‘shark tooth’ split and also the ‘U’ split glove; all intended to provide a more anatomical fit. There are even gloves that are a hybrid split glove, such as the Newbery Kudos 2016 gloves, which utilises both flat and V splits in the same model.
The back hand is also a design feature of the batting glove that never remains static, with the horizontal bar that protects the top part of the hand (below the fingers) varying greatly in size and shape across different designs, with larger bars improving protection but reducing flexibility. It’s not just the fingers where the protection versus flexibility contest comes into play within the design!
In modern times, the focus on the design of the glove has nearly been overshadowed by what material is used on the palm of the glove. The majority of gloves on the market utilise leather palms, but there are several different types of leather used and the type depends on the price point of the glove. On the lower end and junior gloves, cotton is sometimes used, but the issue with cotton palmed gloves is that even though they are a fantastic absorbent of sweat, which is why they are used for batting inner gloves, cotton soaks up the sweat almost too well, making the glove damp and heavy.
Entry level and mid-range senior batting gloves will usually use calf leather, which is far softer than the cotton palms, and allows a better grip and softer feel of the bat handle. Calf leather has fantastic durability properties and is frequently used for football boot leather. However, its structure is quite stiff compared to sheep leather, and perhaps after a long innings the softness that it once had at the start of its life may have waned slightly.
For most top end gloves, full grain sheep leather is employed. Softer than calf leather, sheep leather provides excellent grip but also a fantastic feel through the glove, due to the softer structure of the leather. However, this softer option is not quite as durable as calf leather palmed gloves, meaning they may have to be replaced quicker, which is slightly frustrating considering you have paid a top end price for gloves that may not last as long as a cheaper pair! Finally, many top end gloves utilise Pittards leather in their palms.
Much like an orthotic sole for your shoes, Pittards is a specialist leather company based in Yeovil that was established by Charles Pittard in Yeovil, Somerset, in 1826; who produce specialist leathers in a wide range of sectors such as aviation, equestrian, fashion, military, sports, interiors and even electronics. Within the incredibly diverse market of cricket gloves, it would be no surprise that there are even gloves that use different types of Pittards leather. The most popular is the English Pittards leather, which is a white smooth leather that blends into the colour scheme of many gloves, but there is also the darker diamond pearl and the graphite varieties, which aim to provide superior grip with their multi texturing designs, added to the main benefits of Pittards leather.
The reason why Pittards leather palms are so popular is that the leather is treated during the tanning process, limiting water uptake and reducing damage from sweating, giving an extended softness and an easy care advantage, meaning that you can return to the gloves after a long innings knowing that they will be just as soft as the day you bought them. Further, the tanning process does not block the structure of the leather, meaning that it retains its natural breathability and is permanent too – retaining its benefits for the life of the product.
Cricket batting gloves with Pittards leather palms have only been around for a few years, but they are now increasingly in demand, with many players pressing manufacturers to produce more gloves with this specialist leather. But it can often come at a premium price, with many Pittards leather gloves on the market costing as much as £80. However, with the benefits that a Pittards palm provides, the increased durability may justify the high price. Interestingly, it seems that Pittards is almost exclusively available on split fingered gloves. As far as I’m aware, the TON Pro batting gloves are now the only sausage fingered glove on the market to use Pittards palms. So, if you prefer a sausage finger, you don’t currently have very much choice when it comes to Pittards, which I find a little bizarre – possibly a gap in the market there?!
Another noticeable feature of modern batting gloves is how colourful they are. Unlike bats, which have strict laws determining how much of the blade is allowed to be taken up with stickers, batting gloves can be almost any possible colour combination. Most of the soft goods that companies release correspond to their bat ranges, with the colour scheme emblazoned throughout the stickers of the bat and in the detailing of the pads and gloves, establishing a bold statement and identity for the range. Year on year it seems that the designs are getting brighter and more garish, such as the yellow and blue adopted by Kookaburra and Gray-Nicolls in their respective Verve and Omega ranges. We have seen pink used in recent times and then the almost completely coloured gloves from Millichamp and Hall with their CK22 and International ranges.
However, there is still something out there for the purist, who prefers an all white glove, but this is often reserved for a top end glove, such as the Newbery SPS or the new Hell4Leather Custom, which we now stock at It’s Just Cricket. However, traditionalists on a budget will be pleased to know that the Gray-Nicolls Classic range provides the minimalist look at a reasonable price, such as the Select and Prestige gloves, along with the top end Legend offering.
The biggest change to modern batting gloves, more than anything, has been the attention to detail. Subtle inclusions such as embossing the brand logos to the backhand and even on the Velcro wristbands, may not be the most quintessential detailing on a batting glove, compared to the stickers on a bat – but it is a nice feature, which for me adds value and desirability. The same could be said for airflow, which also offers the functional benefit of breathability; at first gloves were perforated slightly on the palm and on the fingers but now mesh to the top hand thumb and even the bottom hand thumb are more commonplace. Final touches, such as additional wear patches in high wear areas of the glove and side bar protection, more commonly found in top end gloves, provide extra durability and security.
When it comes to my own gloves, I prefer a split fingered glove compared to a sausage finger, because in my opinion they have better flexibility out of the packet, which makes me feel more comfortable and confident at the crease. At It’s Just Cricket, I have reviewed sausage finger gloves and would accept that they are now more flexible than ever before, but I still prefer the feel of the split finger. In terms of looks, I like gloves that are almost completely white, because they are so classy and go with everything.
I’m not too hung up on whether my gloves have Pittards leather palms or not, although I acknowledge that it is a very soft leather and its waterproofing qualities, in particular, impress me. In some areas I border on the picky side: personal touches such as having some form of airflow in the top hand thumb, and the inside of the bottom hand thumb cannot have any sponge material, because I don’t like the feel of it.
The cricket batting glove market has made huge strides over the last decade, with huge improvements occurring almost yearly, so if gloves are as good as they are at the moment, who knows what they are going to be like in the next five to ten years. Either way, from the direction that the market is currently heading, it’s going to be an exciting prospect!
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