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Cricket bats made of bamboo instead of willow are stronger and have better ‘sweet spot’, study finds

·2-min read
<p>An Indian craftsman works on unfinished cricket bats in a factory in Meerut</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

An Indian craftsman works on unfinished cricket bats in a factory in Meerut

(AFP via Getty Images)

Cricket bats made of bamboo instead of the traditionally-used willow are stronger, offer a better “sweet spot,” and deliver more energy to the ball on impact, according to a new study.

Using techniques such as microscopic analysis, video capture technology, computer modelling, and mechanical testing, scientists at the University of Cambridge found that bats made of bamboo enabled “increased energy transfer from the player to the ball,” than willow which has become synonymous to cricket bats.

The results of their analysis, published in the Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology, noted that their specially made prototype laminated bamboo bat is significantly stronger than willow blades and can hold much higher loads.

Since bats made with bamboo could be thinner while remaining as strong as willow, the researchers believe batters can swing the lighter blades significantly faster to transfer more energy to the ball.

Scientists also found that their prototype’s “sweet spot” – the area on cricket bats where energy transference is at its most efficient – performed 19 per cent better than on a traditional willow bat.

“This sweet-spot was about 20 mm wide and 40 mm long, significantly larger than on a typical willow bat, and better still, was positioned closer to the toe (12.5 cm from the toe at its sweetest point),” the researchers noted in a statement.

Players using bamboo bats would also not feel any more vibration than they faced off a willow bat’s handle.

They believe blades made of bamboo can also be a sustainable option for the future.

Citing previous studies, the scientists said there is already shortage of good-quality willow since these trees, which grow mostly in England, take up to 15 years to mature to a point where the wood can be used to make bats.

Using willows to make cricket bats also posed the problem of increased wastage as manufacturers throw away nearly a third of the timber they source.

In contrast, the researchers said the bamboo varieties suitable for cricket bats grow abundantly in China, across Southeast Asia as well as South America, and mature twice as fast as willow.

The cell structure in the laminated bamboo material is more regular, according to the scientists, potentially leading to less wastage of raw material during manufacture.

They say its low-cost production and increased sustainability can make bamboo cricket bats a viable and ethical alternative to willow.

“This is a batsman’s dream. The sweet-spot on a bamboo bat makes it much easier to hit a four off a Yorker for starters, but it’s exciting for all kinds of strokes,” Darshil Shah, study co-author and a former member of Thailand’s under-19 national cricket team, said in a statement.

“We’d just need to adjust our technique to make the most of it, and the bat’s design requires a little optimisation too,” Shah added.

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