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Opinion

Bats hit crazy distances: Joy of six diminishes as modern chunks of willow turn average batters into master blasters

5th November, 2023
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5th November, 2023
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A six used to mean more. It just did. Cricket matches now have so many that they have much less significance.

When you look at some of the mediocre batters who are able to clear the rope with their souped-up bats these days, you can only imagine how someone like Viv Richards would have gone if he had access to the same technology. 

Modern cricket bats are like the fastsuit era in swimming – the technology became so good that you almost need two sets of records to explain how batters now can peel off sixes at such a rapid rate. 

The “Master Blaster” hit 126 sixes in his ODI career which spanned 187 matches from the first World Cup in 1975 to 1991, retiring with the world record tally. 

Windies teammate Gordon Greenidge was Richards’ closest rival with 81. 

West Indies' Viv Richards cuts the ball away during his record-breaking innings of 189 not out.

Sir Vivian Richards. (S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

And now Richards has 30 players ahead of him on the all-time ODI sixes list and at the rate batters are sending spectators scattering at this World Cup, he will soon have many more much-lesser players overtaking him.

The ICC tried to curtail the massive growth in bat sizes six years ago by capping their edges to be no thicker than 40mm while the depth (the distance between the point on the back of the blade and the face) has been limited to 67mm.

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Australian opener David Warner was one of many international batters who had to go back to a slimmer bat with his Kaboom exceeding the ICC limitations. 

He is coincidentally tied with Richards on 126 sixes and on current form, the 37-year-old left-hander will launch past him against Afghanistan on Tuesday. 

Warner and Rohit Sharma were joint leaders at the top of the six-hitting tally at this World Cup but the Indian skipper edged ahead of him to 22 with two more in his 24-ball cameo against the Proteas overnight.

Prior to Sunday night’s India vs South Africa clash, there had been 457 sixes with a dozen matches still to be played. 

The World Cup record of 463 set in the Australia-New Zealand tournament in 2015 is being obliterated. 

It’s a double-edged sword for cricket’s administrators – high scoring generates excitement and fans, particularly in the stadium, love to see the white ball flying into orbit. 

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The distance is tracked by the host broadcaster and it becomes a badge of honour for whichever batter launches the biggest hit. 

But a six is now becoming blase. 

Bowlers used to get riled up and view getting hit for a six as a crushing blow to the ego.

BANGALORE, INDIA - OCTOBER 20: David Warner of Australia celebrates their century during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 between Australia and Pakistan at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on October 20, 2023 in Bangalore, India. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

David Warner. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

It happens so often nowadays that most of them just shrug and return to the top of their mark. 

And this is not to say that modern batters aren’t extremely skilled at power hitting. It’s an aspect of the game that they now spend many hours practising and some of the reverses and ramps are very impressive. 

But we also now see players with limited skill and timing being able to belt fast bowlers back over their head for six.

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Or the stronger power hitters get six runs for a mis-hit which still manages to careen over the outfielders even though the distance achieved is more to do with the bulk of the bat rather than the precision of their execution.

Modern bats are pressed more tightly by manufacturers and the greater density creates a larger sweet spot. 

There is a great photo, taken in 2015, of another legendary batter named Richards – South African Barry Richards is holding the bat he used to score a triple century in 1970 during a Sheffield Shield game and one of Warner’s Kabooms. 

Kaboom: Barry Richards comparing his 1970 bat with David Warner’s Kaboom in 2015. (Photo: Cricket Australia)

If you didn’t know any better you’d think they were pieces of equipment from two distinct sports. 

The toothpaste is out of the tube now, there’s not much the ICC can do to make batters work harder for sixes. 

Even as stadiums get bigger, the playing arenas are shrinking. The rope is a necessary player safety measure so the old days of having to clear the fence will never be reinstated.

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And it’s doubtful cricket administrators will be too concerned about too many sixes, particularly in the white-ball arena where bite-sized video highlights provide for so much viral content. 

But it would be nice for batters to have to work hard for a six, not just be able to swing the tree trunks that pass for modern bats and watch the ball sail into the stands even if you don’t get your timing right. 

Who would want to be a bowler when decent deliveries get treated with disdain by batters up and down the order, flat-batted into the stands at an increasing frequency.

If Viv was in his prime these days with one of these modern bats, no cricket stadium in the world would be big enough … and that includes the grandstands.

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