History of Cricket Bats and Their Further Development
The cricket bat was first mentioned in 1624 when an investigation was carried out into the passing away of a fielder. In that era, the bowlers used to bowl underarm, which is by throwing the ball from knee level. This is why the bats used to be shaped more like hockey sticks. The investigation took place because a batsman whacked a fielder in the head with the bat to prevent him from catching the ball. About 150 years later, in the 1770s, the rules were altered to enable length bowling, which was also underarm. At this time the bat was made to be parallel, and the maximum width was stated in the rulebook to be 4.25 inches. The maximum width of the bat is the same even in today’s game of cricket.
Then in the 1820s round arm bowling was introduced, which brought about more bounce to the ball. This brought about a big change to the weight of bats, they were made to be lighter in comparison with the ones used before, which made it more accommodating to play the higher bounce. Up until the 1830s the cricket bats were made of single wood willow, but they were not very durable and broke due to the faster-paced bowling, bats were made differently, and the bat handles were interwoven by strings into the bats. Later in 1835, the length of the cricket bat was limited to 38 inches, which is the same limitation applicable today. Five years later, in 1840, the first use of a spring in a cricket bat was recorded.
A while later, cane handles were used in bats. This was brought about by Notts County cricket player Thomas Nixon in 1853. There were several changes made to all the equipment used to play cricket, not just the bat. Another example of such a change would be the helmet. Earlier, the helmets would just cover the head, there was no protection for the face. Now the helmets have grills on the front for the protection of the face and the head. After the death of Philip Hughes, an Australian cricketer, by being put into a coma due to a bouncer delivery by bowler Sean Abbott, the rules were tightened with regards to the wearing of the helmet in matches and during practice.
The cricket bats have evolved due to several tragedies and experiences over many games of cricket. In 1864, the laws of cricket were amended to allow over-arm bowling, which led to the further lightening of weight and refining of the shape of the bat blade. By now most of the bat handles were made from cane and the bat grips with rubber. The rubber grips are used even today, to give the batsman access to better handling and balance when batting.
Since the 1870s, the same bat design is being used, with modern bat-manufacturers coming up with more innovative looks and ways to make the most powerful willowed bats with the least weight possible. The bat has gone through so many changes and it has been the cause of so many amended rules before becoming what we all see on our television screens today.
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