Cricket bats are made from fibrous wood from the English Willow tree or the Kashmir Willow tree that grows in India. According to the Cricket Equipment Guide, most bat manufacturers prefer English Willow because of its high performance when striking the hard cricket ball. Kashmir Willow is generally used as a substitute for English Willow. The best cricket bats are crafted from English Willow. There are numerous bat manufacturers ranging from specialists -- such as Gray Nicholls who have been making cricket bats since the nineteenth century -- to general sports equipment manufacturers, such as Slazenger.
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The Manufacturing Process
The process of making the best cricket bats starts with the planting of English Willow trees in select areas of the U.K, says the Cricket Equipment Guide. Fifteen to 30 years after planting, the trees are chopped down and the complex crafting process begins. The bats have to meet specific rules regarding shape, width, length, coverings and adhesive usage. These rules are laid down in appendix E, rule six of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). The MCC is the custodian of cricket's laws.
Grading the Wood
Ranked in a descending order, there are five grades of English Willow, according to the Cricket Equipment Guide The highest is grade 1+[A]. Bats made from this grade have straight even grains, with minimal markings or discoloration on the bat face. Manufacturer-sponsored batters generally use bats made from the highest grades. Based on these criteria, these are some of the best cricket bats in the world.
The Historical Bat Makers
Gray-Nicholls, based in Sussex in the U.K., started making cricket bats in 1867. They manufacture a range of bats. Some of these include the Legend, the Kaboom, the Dynadrive and the Nemesis. Top of the range is the Legend bat. According to the Gray-Nichols website, the Legend bat used by former England Captain Andrew Strauss is made from the finest available Willow. Strauss was Captain between 2009 and 2012. Though Gray-Nicholls are the oldest bat makers in the world, it is arguable that they have a monopoly on the world's best bats. The world's best batters continually search for the best bats and a large number appear to prefer Slazenger bats. This suggests Slazenger makes some of the best bats in the world.
The Batter's Choice
Slazenger makes a range of bats. According to Cricketbats.com, English batters, Eoin Morgan and Paul Collingwood use Slazenger bats. Australian captain Michael Clarke uses the Slazenger V389 that comes in six models. According to Cricketbats.com, the V389 MC-AUS is crafted from grade-1 English Willow. It is a heavy bat with thick edges that suits the big hitters who love hitting the ball a long way. Heavy bats are sometimes unwieldy with poor balance. But the V389 MC is crafted with precisely measured weight-balance technology. This helps the batter wield the bat with a smooth economical motion.
Made in Australia
Kookaburra bats are manufactured in Australia. The highly rated batter South African A.B.Devilliers uses a Kookaburra. Crafted from unbleached English Willow, it is a heavy bat with thick edges and designed with a "dynamic power shaped face" to help the batter maximize the power of his or her strokes. The bat is pre-conditioned to reduce preparation or "knock in" time before use. This process can take the batter up to 10 days. Part of it involves oiling the bat. Then hitting the bat-blade with a specialist mallet before applying fiber tape to the edges and an anti-scuff sheet on the front of the blade.