When you go to the first net session or practice of the season, it is almost inevitable that somebody has a new bat. Cue all of the club veterans wanting to take a good look at the cricket bat grains on it.
Can they really tell anything from the grains, though? Or is this a bit like kicking the tyres on a used car?
In this guide we’re exploring cricket bat grains, where they come from, and what they mean for a bat. Do they really impact the quality and the way a bat plays?
One of the great things about cricket bats is that no two are exactly the same. The best batters out there will tell you they all have their own character, and batters always have a preference. Let’s explore how grains make up part of the equation.
Where Cricket Bat Grains Come From
Grains occur naturally on wood. The vast majority of cricket bats are made out of Willow. Both English Willow and Kashmir Willow are options, and of course both have grains.
The number of grains just indicates how old the tree is that it was made from. Some people say that the older the tree, the better the bat it makes. However, the production cycles of cricket bats have become a lot quicker and this means that a lot of modern bats don’t have loads of grains on them. They can still make very good bats.
It is an area of some debate. Some people will tell you that the grains are a really overrated feature of a cricket bat. Other people will tell you to never buy one without looking at the grains. The truth is somewhere in the middle of these statements.
Tight grains are those that are closer together on the bat. The theory is that this creates a harder bat due to the fact that the willow has compacted over the years and the willow has become very dense.
It can also impact things like the weight of the bat. If it has a tighter grain it is fair to assume that when the bat is pressed it will have a hard and durable surface.
There are some downsides, too. If the grains are too tight it can make the bat more brittle and prone to breakages. Tight grains can also mean the bat is heavy and harder to play your shots. You can see how the whole process of finding a bat is such a complex one.
Tight grains may be a matter of preference for some cricketers. The main thing is a quality, solid willow, and this is just one of the factors that plays a part in this.
Bats with wide grains, of course, don’t have as many on them, and have been made from younger willow.
This leads to a lighter bat, but one that is still pretty hefty as long as it is well-made and is properly looked after. A lot of players are looking for a lighter bat, this can help with pickup and may also be able to help you to hit the ball further.
With either tight or wide grains, the surface is looked after in detail using the knocking in process, something you need to do on any bat. Wider-grained bats may need more in terms of knocking in to ensure that the fibres are tight and the bat surface is protected.
When you buy the Village Cricket Bat, it arrives at your door having already been knocked in, meaning one less job for you to worry about. It also means the bat will be in superb condition and ready to play with.
Do High Grains = High Grade
You may already know that Willow is graded when it is used to make a cricket bat. The better the grade, the more expensive the bat is likely to be.
Graders evaluate a few different aspects of the wood before assigning it a grade, and this ensures that quality wood can be used by the pros.
Most village players need a good quality willow bat, but it not being A Grade 1 willow doesn’t matter too much.
The number of grains will be evaluated when grading, but it is not the only factor. Higher numbers of grains will come into the process but this doesn’t automatically mean a great cricket bat. Other factors like knots and imperfections, or even stains, can play a part in how the wood is graded.
While you won’t find a lot of the best grades with only a few grains, it is possible for Willow to have lots of grains and still be less than perfect.
How to Count Grains
If you are looking to count grains on the wood, the process is simple.
Put the bat down on a table or flat surface, and under a light source. You’ll see the slightly darker lines running down the face of the bat. Each one of these is a grain.
It is normal for bats to have between around 6 and 18 grains on them, but this can vary. As we’ve already discussed, your preferences may also vary.
Summary – Are Grains a Myth?
Cricket bat grains are certainly no myth. They are one of a number of different factors to play a part in grading the quality of the wood. Pay attention to the number of grains as well as their straightness and uniformity.
A bat with a lot of nice, straight grains can be a good indicator of quality. If you are in the market for a new bat then the number of grains may play a part in your decision but it is only one of the factors. You need to consider cost, whether the bat has imperfections, and most importantly, the wood itself. Willow is the only option for a great bat.