Any cricketer will tell you that people tend to be very particular about the kind of wood they use for cricket bats. Cricket bat wood must not only be made out of certain materials, it is also crucial that they meet a certain criteria.
Wood is actually graded based on its quality with the best cricketers wanting Grade 1A wood, even if it is very expensive.
We’re not focusing too much on quality and grading today, we’re looking more at the type of wood that is used for cricket, and in a one word answer the wood used is willow.
There are still plenty of questions you might have though. Where is the willow sourced? How is cricket bat wood processed? Is any willow suitable?
Why is Willow Good For Cricket Bats?
There have been experiments with other types of materials, but cricket bats are almost always made out of willow. At least, the high-quality cricket bats are certainly made out of willow.
Willow was found to be best for a few reasons. It is pretty light in weight when you consider the size and weight. A cricketer doesn’t necessarily want to carry around a huge, heavy bat, so the lightness of willow is ideal.
Also, the willow doesn’t tend to splinter or get damaged by a ball that hits it. This is especially true once it has gone through treating and “knocking in”. The knocking in process helps to make the wood stronger, combining the fibres and creating a denser bat for cricketers to use.
What Type of Willow is Used For Cricket Bats?
There are a few different types of willow, but not all of them are suitable to be used. A lot of us are familiar with the “weeping willow” style but this is not actually suitable to be used for these bats.
Salix alba ‘Caerulea’ is the wood that is used. This one specific species makes up the vast majority of types of cricket bat that are used at a high level. It is a fast-growing type of wood but there is still a relative scarcity.
Wood that is sourced in the UK is preferred by some of the professional cricketers out there, and Suffolk and Essex are the areas known for producing salix alba to such a high standard.
They aren’t the only places you can source your wood from, of course…
In India, where cricket became exceptionally popular after British colonisation, a group of cricket enthusiasts started growing this type of willow. This is now known as Kashmir willow colloquially and is known to be a lot cheaper. A lot of bats are made in India anyway, so the wood being produced there too can save on production and importing and exporting the wood.
While it is exactly the same species, the wood is slightly different due to being grown in a different environment and atmosphere. Salix alba grown in India tends to be a little more robust as well as being darker in colour.
The Village Cricket Bat is an exceptional example of a bat that uses salix alba from India. The material is just as strong, if not stronger than most of the wood that is sourced in the UK for cricket bats, but a whole lot cheaper.
Our mission is to make cricket more affordable, we know that it is expensive for village cricketers. Not all of us can afford to spend £400-500 on a new bat for the cricket season, so having an option under £100 can make a big difference for cricketers. Have a drink on us!
How Old is the Wood When it is Felled?
Different manufacturers have different criteria for wood, and in fact, there is some debate about how old the cricket bat wood should be when it is used in the production of a bat. Some fell the trees at 4-6 years old but some wait more than double this time before they fell the wood.
Can Other Types of Wood Be Used For Cricket Bats?
If you want a quality cricket bat then the wood that it is made out of is important. There’s no real substitute for the material, and nothing that creates the spring and quality you get from a willow bat.
Of course, if you buy from a budget sports store, there is every chance that the bat is not made out of willow. Some of the cheaper bats on the market can’t handle a hard ball, and these are only really suitable for using a tennis ball.
A plastic cricket set is a good option for children and families that are playing casually in the garden, but if you want a quality bat that can handle a hard ball, you will need a willow cricket bat.