Sunday, 8 January 2012

Perimeter Weighted, baby...

Gray-Nicolls, supplier of bats to Mr WG Grace and other subsequent players of note, have some self-made videos on their site of various pros going into the factory to pick out their glowing, handsomely-stickered blades for the new season.

In serried ranks they lie, pods shaved to exacting requirements, a batter's dream. None of the players approach the task particularly scientifically. They do what everyone else does: pick a bat up, play a few air shots, cast an eye down the line of the willow. They might fuss later with handles and grips, but that initial acquaintance is all about indefinable feel.

The scales have their say. A man who likes a bat of 2lb 8ozs will never be seduced by a 3lb mutha, whatever promise of dominance it offers. Yet, as anyone who has buggered around with the game for long enough will know, weight, once narrowed down, is just a number. Two bats might tip the scales the same, but they will not feel the same, not today, not ever. Some bats of 2lbs 10oz will pick up lighter than others of 2lb 8, and there's not a scientist on earth who can say why, because it's as much to do with the physiology of the batsman as it is with the weight of the blade. That is the only explanation as to why a bat can feel one way one day, and another way the next.

There is a deep psychology at work, because a bat, ultimately, is all a batsman has. In it, he invests his future. It is prey to superstition, ritual, illusion. Ultimately, what matters is belief. If it feels right, then it is right.

Gray-Nicolls have this year [praise be] relaunched their most famous bat, the GN 100 Scoop. It's hard to overstate the rep this blade once had. In a TV era when bats were emerging as marketable objects of desire, the Scoop was revelatory, its spine gouged out and sacrificed for the mysterious promise of 'Perimeter Weighting' a concept so new it got its own sticker on the bat. Counter-intuitive it may have been, but the Scoop roared in the hands of Greg Chappell, Barry Richards, David Gower [who also used the four-scoop version, from memory] and of course Brian Lara.

Other batmakers were forced to respond. Stuart Surridge had the epic Jumbo; Slazenger came out with a V8 [or maybe V12...] which had a sort of shark's fin bump the back; Saint Peter, briefly used by King Viv and Tony Greig, obtained an impossible glamour before vanishing. But the Scoop was the one, a masterpiece of design and allure, an Excalibur among broadswords.

Part of its magic was the sound it made, a great hollow 'whump' that pre-dated the current, plosive crack. You couldn't help but feel a bit superior with a Scoop in the bag, and that was half the battle. I got my first hundred with one, on a distant field long ago, forgotten by all but me.

Its revival appeals to a nostalgic market. Today's player was barely born in its heyday. In the videos, they all get offered one at the end, like a sweet: 'wanna try a Scoop?' To them it seems like an oddity, its conception fatally flawed by the removal of that apparently essential mass on the back of their bat.

The hurdle is psychological. They've grown up looking down at sleek spines and thick edges. It may be a battle for Gray-Nicolls to get one in the hands of a pro on the field. They can't be persuaded by the legend, any more than they would be by the chance of using a bat like Compton's or Bradman's.

But then they have one thrust at them. The reaction is usually one of surprise. 'Picks up really nicely,' they'll say*. Hopefully, they'll chance one in the nets, and the ball will go from it like it always used to, and they'll realise the strange magic that this greatest of all bats possesses. After all, Lara got 375 and 501 with it, so it kind of works...

*That'll be the Perimeter Weighting. Probably.

16 comments:

diogenes said...

great post...do you remember those bats that had holes bored through them...from the late 70s i think.....Glenn turner used them for a while and, therefore, so did Bob Willis.

David Curtis said...

Eloquent post on the air of magic that surrounds the scoop. Although you might say that Lara would have scored those runs with a standard bat. Pros are pros for the reason that they have mastered skills. The bat is merely an essential appendage, which is why some top pros don't give much thought to their bats. Also, if you used the Moment of Inertia of a bat (measurable) in selection, then you have a much better scientific method than bat mass to make a more informed choice on pick-up. You can't get it yet from bat makers, but one day this will happen.

However, no amount of science can totally overcome the curious psychological whims of the batsmen, who are knowingly and unknowingly influenced by trend, fad, stickers, role models, favourite colour and so on. Consumers are the devil to provide for!

The Old Batsman said...

Diogenes, you've jogged my memory. I remember what they looked like but not what they were called.

David, have heard of this moment of inertia although am not too sure what it is or why it's important. I recall the Mongoose people claiming it was something to do with their design.

I think attachment to the bat grows, though, and pros especially get more superstitious the longer they do well with a particular bat.

Paul Fearnley said...

That Duncan Fearnley – a distant relation, I have been told – with holes in it is the very type of bat that RGD Willis once neglected to tuck under his arm before trotting down the stairs at Lord's (?) to resume another innings of swipes and 'curtain rails'.

As to weights: Denis Compton ran up his 3800+ runs of 1947 with one weighing a mighty 2lb 2oz. That's when he remembered to bring it, that is. Otherwise he'd just grab a team-mate's blade and put the opposition to the sword in any case.

And finally, I seem to recall that Bill Ponsford, the first great Aussie accumulator, wielded a wand of 2lb 10-12oz.

PS Did Viv really use an SP? Collis King certainly did. Kapow!

The Old Batsman said...

Should have added the Duncan Fearnley Magnum to the list, of course. Greatly desirable when Beefy was lasting it everywhere.

Yes King Viv briefly flirted with SP, I saw a pic a few years ago and remember being quite surprised. Then he went of to DF with Botham, I think...

Anonymous said...

Do you remember the Newbery shoulderless number used by Lance Cairns and others used to express their masculinity ? A beast of a bat.

The Old Batsman said...

Ys I remember that. Was it Lance Cairns who tried to use an orange bat too?

willostix did s shoulderless bat last year. Felt like a railway sleeper...

Buzzrockport said...

I think that it is telling that so many bat firms are reserecting revamped versions of their older models - GN with the Scoop (look out for a Dynadrive next season) - GN with the 1885, County have returned to the Caerulex (I had three of these so am rather pleased about this!), Willowstix have their lazer etched model - shows the appeal of the older bat stickers more than anything - and we all remember our equipment with rose tinted glases!

Oh and here are a few pics of a GN100 I picked up in an antique shop before Christmas, I am rather pleased with myself for doing it!!

http://i895.photobucket.com/albums/ac151/buzzrockport/utf-8BSU1BRzA0NzcuanBn.jpg

http://i895.photobucket.com/albums/ac151/buzzrockport/utf-8BSU1BRzA0ODAuanBn.jpg

http://i895.photobucket.com/albums/ac151/buzzrockport/utf-8BSU1BRzA0ODEuanBn.jpg

diogenes said...

is it time for the aluminium bat (D K Lillee) to make a reappearance on the scene?

The Old Batsman said...

Buzzrockport - great find. I've been looking for one for a while, as has my dad, with no joy. The only ones on ebay tend to be Australian. Could be worth sending it to GN for a refurb - they do a very nice job by all accounts.

diogenes, Many, many years ago, when I was a pup at Alf Gover's school,an aluminium bat turned up there one day, and we all had a go. Absolute monstrosity - unusable in fact, as I'm sure DKL knew...

Will said...

My Dad always used GN bats. He has an original Scoop and gave me his mid-80s Powerspot when I was a teenager. I hit my first six with it and I always liked to think it, like a fine wine' had matured with age. It was held together with bits of tape by the end and it was a sad day when it finally gave up the ghost. I believe the (broken) scoop still lives under his bed as a 'burglar bat'. I wonder if GN could refurb it?

backwatersman said...

I've still got my Dad's Herbert Sutcliffe Autograph. Now there was a bat. Light as a feather.

The Old Batsman said...

Will, I'd certainly think about it. There aren't too many scoops about any more, and you'd probably recoup your money if you sold it. Would be a pleasure to keep though.

I had a powerspot for a while, but it lacked the x-factor of the scoop for me. Apparently GN might be bringing it back next year too. Nostalgia rules...

Not sure the Herbert Sutcliffe will get the treatment tho!

diogenes said...

I remember Magnus nPyke on TV explaining that it was all about the centre of percussion - about how the mass of the bat has to be at the place where the blade is at maximal velocity....I saw a photo many years ago where Jack Hobbs and Frank Woolley were side by side with their bats. Woolley, a much taller man, had a very chunky bat compared with Hobbs, so he might have been the first "heavy" bat wielder. Perhaps 3rd man can go back in his time capsule

Host PPH said...

you said it well and I have to say that I share most of your insights and also David Curtis's insights on your article

Gary McMahon said...

Guys - the name of the bat that had holes drilled through it was a Duncan Fearnley Run Reaper.