The weight of Bradman’s bat

Anthony Shillinglaw Roar Rookie

By Anthony Shillinglaw, Anthony Shillinglaw is a Roar Rookie

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    A reply to the Spiro Zavos article, Sachin Tendulkar’s bat is too heavy.

    During two weeks in January 2004, whilst visiting Sydney to learn more about Don Bradman, I enjoyed the company and knowledge of Phil Derriman, while also giving a talk to the ‘Bradman Museum Society’ at the Bradman Oval in Bowral.

    Quote from page 50 of Bradman’s ‘Farewell to Cricket’: “I must tell of a match at Blackheath, New South Wales. It was only a second-class fixture and I was playing against a team from Lithgow on a malthoid wicket.

    Included in my score of 256 were 14 sixes and 29 fours. Batting with Wendell-Bill, I at one stage scored 100 out of the 102 added in three overs. The following are the hits which made up the 102:

    First Over 6,6,4,2,4,4,6,1,
    Second Over 6,4,4,6,6,4,6,4,
    Third Over 1,6,6,1,1,4,4,6,

    The scoring shots made by Wendell-Bill in those three overs were the first and fifth singles in the third over. Residents of Cairns (N.Q.) claim that the fastest hundred ever scored was made there in 1910 by Lorry Quinlan — 18 minutes. No time was recorded at Blackheath, though I think it must have been less than 18 minutes”. It is likely the ‘Don’ would have taken to 20 Twenty.

    Phil told me of this feat and during the trip, the remote Blackheath ground, now in the form of a bowling club, was finally located. Imagine my astonishment and delight when behind the bar was Melissa Gledhill whose grandfather, Jack Boyd, had actually played in this famous match. The bat with which Bradman scored those runs was locked away in an old glass cabinet and only following explanation of our ‘Bradman Study’ was Melissa persuaded to open the cabinet.

    Taking the bat outside and being photographed in the Bradman stance and then sensing the perfect balance and almost weightlessness of its pickup was a magical experience. The feeling was not far removed from that of the stump with which Bradman evolved his ‘Rotary’ batting style. The thought of balsa wood and model aircraft also came to mind. It was abundantly clear that such a light bat was a necessary and integral part of Bradman’s versatility and dynamic mode of play.

    When discussing weight of bats, it is worth throwing into the pot that Jack Hobbs, scorer of 61,222 runs and 197 centuries (both records) wrote as follows:

    “I helped my father at various odd jobs on the Jesus College, Cambridge, ground during school holidays, such as scouting at the nets and soon opportunities came of playing a sort of cricket with the college servants, using a tennis ball, a cricket stump for a bat, and a tennis post for the wicket. This simple practice laid a wonderful foundation, giving me a keen eye and developing the wrist strokes which I had seen in the college matches.

    Boy as I was, I tried to emulate the same strokes, and I was surprised at the number of successful strokes I managed to make. That was the way in which I became a natural batsman. The footwork came automatically, and the practice became a great source of enjoyment when I recognised how important everything was.

    The straight stump helped me to sense the importance of the straight bat. Perhaps I tried to over-flourish, but I learned to appreciate the grace, beauty, swing and rhythm of stroke play and, above all, balance”.

    Bradman’s golf ball and stump is of course part of cricket folklore. Those wishing to encourage young cricketers may wish to consider the similarity and merits of the simple form of development adopted by these two great players, who were not ‘taught’ to bat but more ‘learned’ how to gain mastery over a moving ball.

    In this way they were adhering to the Walter Hammond maxim: “A good shot is one that controls the ball”. As natural batsmen, both Bradman and Hobbs tended not to express their play solely in terms of technique. Rather they stressed the instinctive human rhythms and balance which allowed them to shape the line and length of the ball to their benefit.

    To conclude, the bat with which Denis Compton scored all his record 3816 runs, including 18 centuries, in the summer of 1947 weighed just 2lb 2 ounces.

    Any undue tension exerted holding the bat automatically transfers itself through the fingers, hands, wrists, arms and body through to the feet, so reducing freedom of movement and versatility of stroke, and therefore reducing scoring possibilities.

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    The Crowd Says (3)

    • February 19th 2008 @ 12:51pm
      Glenn Condell said | February 19th 2008 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

      ‘Any undue tension exerted holding the bat automatically transfers itself through the fingers, hands, wrists, arms and body through to the feet, so reducing freedom of movement and versatility of stroke, and therefore reducing scoring possibilities.’

      Interesting. There is always a balance to be struck between the mobility a lighter bat gives and the power of a bigger blade. But it isn’t just the weight of the bat, it’s how it is employed. I wrote a piece on Viv Richards a while ago for a very short-lived sports website – it didn’t run because the editor (for whom English seemed to be a second language) demanded the right to turn my deathless prose into more exciting mush. Anyway, the relevant bits follow:

      ‘There was some recent publicity about the English academy having brought human movement (and cricket) experts in to examine the Don’s technique and their finding that he didn’t lift the bat using his arms and shoulders to take the weight as the manual would have it. Rather, he used the bottom hand as a fulcrum and pressure from the top hand turned the bat into a sort of lever, requiring far less effort in the backlift and allowing that extra split second with which to fashion the appropriate stroke, which was itself easier as the bat was in a better position to change at the last moment should this be needed. This also meant there was less effort through a long innings, lessening the chance of the ubiquitous ‘tired shot’ that often ends a good knock.’

      The fact that the bat faced the pads rather than the bowler made this technique even easier on the arms and the back, as the batsman can lean on the bat rather than have to hold himself crouched without support as he would with the approved stance – bat behind the toes facing the bowler. The fulcrum is established with downward pressure from the top hand (far less onerous than lifting with the bottom) and the result is a poised, balanced weapon, ready for quick maneouvrability. More time and less effort.

      What prompted the Viv piece was a video BBC doco on him made in 1991, which saw in 2000. It intrigued me because watching his batting in slo-mo confirmed how similar his technique was to Bradman’s. I don’t know whether he used a heavy bat or not, but his stance and the fulcrum technique were almost identical. I waxed rather lyrical about it:

      ‘some of the footage was awesome; he nearly decapitated a few bowlers (and umpires) with murderous straight drives that stung the hands of spectators silly enough to try to field them. He memorably swatted a Thomson scorcher over midwicket for six and followed this with another over point, for God’s sake. This is rare enough, but to the fastest bowler of all, it’s something else again. The amazing thing is how little physical effort he seemed to need to accomplish these things, and how much time he had… I put the tape on slo-mo many times to see this and was struck by the similarities to Bradman, especially early in Viv’s career when he was fairly slight. Even his unruffled stance, the bat at rest with the face turned in toward his pads, was redolent of the Don. It is instructive that the two greatest bats of all, while not quite throwing the training manual out he window, followed their instincts and their eye than many more ‘correct’ players… Another thing to stand out was how early he started moving into position and how late he played his shots. For the fast men he moved forward and then back, seemingly in one movement, on his toes, as he was when moving back then forward to the slower bowlers. Of course, sometimes he just charged, normally with great success, but when you hear of a batsman ‘rocking’ back on his heels, it gives a clue to what I mean about this double movement, which when allied to the practical technique, gave Richards options and time. Also, the stroke itself when seen in slo-mo reminded me of talk of Tiger Woods’s ‘club-head speed’. Despite moving into position early, he began the downward (or sideways) stroke quite late and often deliveries from the fastest bowlers were virtually upon him, having already hit the deck before his bat was two-thirds the way through the swing. I kept thinking ‘He’s in strife here’ but the bat seemed to pick up pace in that last moment before contact and he invariably hit the ball ‘on the up’ and usually dead centre.’

      So it’s surprising to read that Sachin Tendulkar uses such a heavy bat. But as Bradman and Richards (and athletes in other sports like Gary Player) demonstrate, real talent has it’s own orthodoxies. It would be interesting to see him use a featherweight, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it limited rather than liberated him.

    • November 29th 2012 @ 9:33am
      Arun M said | November 29th 2012 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      This is an excellent piece of analysis of the 2 greatest batsmen in hIstory. I wish more such pieces are written than simply praising a player to the skies.


    • July 10th 2014 @ 5:12am
      Sabab Ahsan said | July 10th 2014 @ 5:12am | ! Report

      Amazing analysis! very rare piece of advice that we get these days when the big edges and heavy bats are in fashion, where as the actual runs and winning matches have gone away compared to personal records only. A beautiful approach to batting and longevity has been given!

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