Like a Steven Seagal revenge-fantasy franchise, each edition more fevered, more heightened, more alluring and more ridiculous than the last, so the new season brings its new weapons, its ammo, its bats.
Yes, it's bat catalogue time for the manufacturers, it's gear-test time for the mags, it's time-to-dream time for the buying public. This blog has been following the moment for the past two seasons [the first here, the second here] and reading back on them, the ramping up of commerce, the refinement of the sales pitch, become obvious. Bats are boys toys, like cars, like guitars, like bikes, like all that stuff, and men are simple to sell to: it's about machismo, it's about lust, it's about power. Cricket took a while to catch on, but now, the language is in place to frame it in that way.
Bats have been invested with emotion by their users long before they became consumables, because that is the nature of batting. It's about repetition, and like most things of that ilk, there's an obsessive edge to it. Its psychological demands mean that the bat itself becomes imbued with a kind of totemic power. Many pros and many amateurs are familiar with this odd psychic terrain, where the same piece of wood can feel one way one day and one way the next.
It's this conflux of urge and need that the manufacturers have tuned into. The bat, essentially unchanged for so long, is now a thing of technical and aesthetic beauty, machine-tooled yet natural, recognisible but reinvented for a new game that pulses with action and power. There are certain key adjectives that are common to all of the 50-plus batmakers and podshavers that have their wares on sale. Profiles are always 'massive'; edges are 'imposing'; bows are 'exaggerated'; middles are 'huge'; willow is 'prime'... If you don't feel rugged and ready to rock n roll with that lot on hand just below your waistband, then this probably ain't the game for you.
Sex and violence dominate the marketplace. From the same lingual category of 1970s men's mags, condoms and hairspray come the Willostix Anaconda, the Kookaburra Rogue, the Hunts County Envy, the Redback Surefire Performance, the Fearnley Magnum Super, the Adidas Libro, the Choice Black Prince, the Charlie French Recurve, the Ram Rambow, the San Andreas Erus Premier.
For those with the self-image of a destroyer, the lone-wolf hunter, there's the Gray-Nicolls Oblivion, the Adidas Incurza, the Hawk X-Bow, the Buffalo Bison, the Shark Tiger, the Bulldog Growler, the Warrior Grade A, the Choice Saladin, the Gray Nicolls Nitro Powerblade, the Samurai Tessen.
But the coming form is futuristic, faux-technological, suggestive of some new and weird science: the Woodworm iBat Gamma, the Gray Nicolls Quantum, the Vantage Lithium, the Puma Kinetic, the San Andreas Fabrica, the SS Matrix. They are shadowed by bats that allude to a kind of irresistible super-nature, an unstoppable act of god: the Vulcan Fire, the Newbery Krakatoa, the Black Cat Voodoo, the Hell4Leather 666 Monster, the Hunts County Mettle Cyclone.
Some have struck out alone, on their own esoteric little tip: Chase, from Hampshire, have, quite sweetly, the Finback, the Orca and the Beluga; Surridge have the Ocre, Charlie French the Aria and the Ovation, Gunn & Moore the Luna. Choice are probably trying too hard with the Teutonic, and Redback's Paradox remains in a baffling corner of its own.
This year's winner though introduces to the mix the kind of divine feel every batsman needs. Who wouldn't feel better going out there with a Hunts County Glory Almighty in their hands. Praise the Lord...