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
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.