Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The sword in the stone

Like the monomaniacal cyberstalker I probably am, I often gravitate to the website of Millichamp & Hall, batmakers, where I sit with my nose pressed against the glass, dreaming of the day when I make the journey west to Taunton and have them make me a bat.

There's a new bat-sizing section on the site, for those ordering online. Ordering an M&H bat online is a bit like taking a plane to Las Vegas and then not actually getting out - why deny yourself the full experience? - but those who do are asked to complete a form with the questions:

Build - solid, medium, light [solid - terrific euphemism]
Batting position - top order, middle order, lower order [don't think you'll see too many of the latter, lads]
Level of cricket played - school, county youth, occasional, club, first class
Batsman - right-handed, left-handed
Most prolific scoring area - off side, on side, square of the wicket, straight
Deal mostly in - singles, boundaries, both
Highest score:
Type of pitch played on - grass hard, grass slow, grass indifferent, artifical
Weight of current bat:
Size and type of current bat:

There's something quite beautiful about the deduction that will go into the selection of a bat based on this questionnaire. It requires a rich knowledge of the game. I like to imagine the batmakers processing the info when you turn up in person too, and then picking up the draw knife to take some wood here, to leave some more there, to tailor it, to shape it, to make it fit.

I remember once finding a bat in a shop somewhere. It was not my sort of thing at all, a Stuart Surridge Jumbo with a very short handle. But it fell into my hands like a wand. I've never felt anything like it since [and I didn't have the money to buy it...] but I'll know that feeling again when it comes. It was like picking up Excalibur. So when I get to Millichamp & Hall, whenever that is, I'll know what to ask for.

'I'll have one of those lads. An Excalibur. Do me one just like that...'

NB: Tom Redfern has the video film of his trip to M&H on their homepage. The bastard. His writing on the subject is here, and just about says it all.


Brit said...

I'd love to know how they factor in the information about your highest score.

Tom Redfern said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Redfern said...

OB,the wonderful thing about M and H is that they don't sponsor professionals. They don't have the money to chuck around. It's two guys in a shed. They've got a capacity problem. They can only make so many bats. Each bat, start to finish takes 3 to 4 hours. Factor that into the working day. That's why you should stop visiting site and buy yourself the damn thing. Get busy living or get busy ....

But a word of caution, they do make classical traditional bats but they too for some ranges have started to put more wood on the middle; they pick up light thanks to new handle components bat makers use but some can be a little bottom heavy; M and H are less bottom heavy than anyone else though. Still you can ask for the weight you want and pick your blade shape. I'd go for a range with less bow next time; somethinf closer to the bats of my youth.

It's a beautiful thing to watch them make your bat. But let's be honest it's a myth that everything hand made is brilliant; that's rot jumped up tailors on Saville Row peddle to sting you.

Arts-craft fascism is too easily bought into.
Machines make brilliant things with great precision, attention and care.

Imagine if the Germans played cricket. Bet you a Mercedes bat would be bloody good.

The Old Batsman said...

Thanks Tom, yes you're right, I should get on with it.

You're right too about investing too much faith in bats purely because they're handmade. Will be interesting to see how the new Gray Nicolls turn out - I understand they're going to some sort of automated process.

How do you find the M&H handle? Some say the shape is hard to get on with?

The Old Batsman said...

Brit, I don't know - and I don't know if Tom told them of his mission while they made his bat?

Tom Redfern said...

The handle is quite thick. You're right. I felt this but never really questioned it. I was just a bit dazzled by the thing. It feels like two grips are are on it and it's very thick at the base of the handle.

By the way,did you hear about Marcus Trescothick wanting a kit mag as one of his desert island items? Brilliant that, absolutetly brilliant.

Did you know that SS are making the Jumbo and Turbo ranges again. I was going to get one but at 2lb 9oz, they are a bit too heavy- they've only got one weight. Damn.

The Old Batsman said...

Yes, that was the best bit of Tresco's [bad] book. I'm convinced there's a small but worthy market for retro bats. M&H have one of course, and Gray-Nicolls have talked about making a few scoops for old times' sake. I wonder if, with modern pressing, the Jumbo could go lighter? It was a bat before its time...

Very interesting re the M&H handle too. It's the only thing that worries me, because I'd also heard they're more oval than round.