Meerut - As factory worker Jitender Singh carves another
slab of thick willow, he insists that proposals to limit the size of cricket
bats won't tame the big hitters.
"I don't think the thickness matters. It's more about
the balance of the bat and the talent of the batsman," said Singh.
He has made bats for many leading players including South
Africa's AB de Villiers, who holds the record for the fastest hundred in a
one-day international - off just 31 balls.
"We can provide a thick or thin blade but it's the
batsman who knows best how to use it," he added at the factory of BDM, one
of India's leading cricket gear suppliers, in Meerut in India's northern state
of Uttar Pradesh.
The World Cricket committee of the Marylebone Cricket Club
(MCC), who are the guardians of the game's rules and regulations, recommended
last month that limitations be placed on the thickness of bats.
They believe bigger weapons have made it too easy to smash
fours and sixes.
"(The) balance of the game has tilted too far in the
batsman's favour. The time has come to limit the sizes of bat edges and
depths," the committee said.
It suggested a maximum thickness of 40 millimetres at the
edge of the bat rising to 67mm at the spine during its two-day meeting in
Thirty years ago a batsman's weapon of choice averaged 30mm
to 32mm thick at the edge but today's bigger bats are a chunky 45mm to 50mm.
The only current size restrictions are on length and width.
They state that the overall length of the bat shall not be
more than 38 inches (96.5 centimetres) and the width of the bat shall not
exceed 4.25 inches (10.8 centimetres) at its widest part.
The proliferation of the high-octane Twenty20 format in
which matches are won primarily on the number of boundaries struck has fuelled
the rush to bigger bats.
However some claim that modern batsmen are simply bigger,
stronger and more athletic and would be hitting more boundaries anyway.
Jatin Sareen, managing director of SS Sports, also in
India's bat-making hub of Meerut, agrees with Singh that limiting a bat's size
won't make any difference.
"I don't agree (with the MCC proposal). Nor will it
give any benefit to the game. Bats will have the same power as they have
(now)," he said.
The cricket bat has evolved significantly down the years
from the original paddle-like shape to the popular scooped-back variety to
today's familiar boat-shaped bat.
Rakesh Mahajan, co-owner of BDM, insists that through the
changes the constant has remained the batsman's skill.
"English and Australian players didn't use boat-shaped
bats. Now everybody is using them," he said.
"Skill remains the same, you see. It's still the
batsman's talent that gets him runs and not the thickness of the bat."
Cricketers have long experimented with different weapons.
Back in 1979 Australia's Dennis Lillee controversially came out to bat in a
Test with an aluminium bat which was subsequently banned.
Countryman Matthew Hayden wielded a "mongoose" in
the 2010 IPL which had a long handle and short blade, while West Indian Andre
Russell is using a unique black bat in Australia's Big Bash League.
Stories of India great Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi in the 1960s
picking up whatever bat was nearest before walking out to the crease are
But 50 years on, cricketers are involved in every aspect of
the manufacture of their bats.
"They come down to the factory to discuss their needs
and demands," said Sareen.
If the MCC main committee agrees to the limit the thickness
of bats then the regulations will become part of the laws of the game from
October next year.
Former India fast bowler Chetan Sharma doesn't expect the
game to shift suddenly away from the batsmen.
"You can't bring back days of WG Grace-like (thin)
bats. If those bats came back then bowlers would have an advantage," he
"If a batsman has class, he will score a boundary. As a
fast bowler I don't see much delight in this. For a spinner maybe the sixes and
fours may reduce."