Selecting a grade of English Willow is often a difficult process. Knowing what to look for is often a debate for so many.
The things to consider are grains, knots, blemishes, two-tone willow and single-tone willow.
The main types of grade of English Willow are determined as Players Grade, Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3. Often brands and manufactures will create different types inside each of these such as ‘Reserve Grade’ and ‘Premium Players’. Butterfly Willow or Grade 4 is an option, however these aren’t the these aren’t the types of English Willow discussed here.
At FeroX Cricket we look at mainly the tightness of the grains and any blemishes to determine the Grade of the English Willow. A clean blade, with even straight 7 or more grains will be considered a Grade 1 or Players Grade. If a blade has 6 grains or less, or a little inconsistent and/or with blemishes through the Willow, it will be considered a Grade 2 or Grade 3 depending on the quality of the willow.
What determines the performance of the bat?
Ultimately, we are looking at the spring or what is known as the ‘Ping’ off the bat. Importantly when you are purchasing a brand new bat, the ‘ping’ at purchase is not the only thing to consider when selecting a bat.
Factors to consider are:
- Tightness of grains – Basically the closer the grains are together, the quicker and more responsive your bat will be. The downside to a bat with 12 or more grains do not typically last as long. On the opposite side of spectrum, a bat with 3-6 grains, will ‘come good’. Ever heard from a cricketer “This bat is performing better than when I bought it last year”? There is a reason for that! Bats with 3-6 grains take longer to mature. This is due the actual life of the Willow in the tree that it has grown in being younger than a bat that 12+ grains, which is an older Willow.
- Knots/blemishes/Marks – On the face of the bat means that section of Willow is ‘hard’. Give it time!
- Moisture in the Willow – Consider 2x Short Handle (SH) 2.8lbs bats. One bat having a considerably bigger profile to the other, although the weight is still the same. This would typically mean the drying conditions of the Willow are different. The smaller bat in this instance would have more moisture in the Willow, meaning in most cases if its maintained with good bat care, the moister will remain in the bat and damage due to a bat being too ‘dry’ and becoming brittle is less likely.
- 2 Tone vs Single Tone Willow – Simply do not be scared of bats with 2 tone colourations down the willow. All this means is that the darker side of the willow is a little firmer. Before long a 2 Tone Bat will perform consistently. A number of International Stars around the world prefer 2 Tone Willow, Dwayne Bravo to name one!
For FeroX Cricket the optimum grain distribution on the Willow is approximately 7-10 grains reasonably and decently straight with little to no blemishes as possible to the face. Always remember to spend time preparing your bat properly by knocking it in before use in a match or at training. Continue to show some love to your bat and it will return the love dispatching balls to the boundary.