United Kingdom

Cricket lawmaker MCC rejects bamboo bats because it's 'grass' not wood

Cricket's lawmakers the Marylbone Cricket Club (MCC) has rejected that bamboo bats could provide an alternative to willow because bamboo is grass and not wood. 

In order for bamboo bats to be given the go-ahead, there would need to be an amendment to the laws of cricket. 

And the MCC has vowed to discuss this at the next laws sub-committee meeting. 

In a statement, the club said: "MCC has read with interest the research study from the University of Cambridge, which suggests that cricket bats made from bamboo offer a more suitable alternative to the traditional use of willow.

"Currently, Law 5.3.2 states that the blade of the bat must consist solely of wood, so for bamboo (which is a grass) to be considered as a realistic alternative to willow would require a law change.  

"Importantly, the law would need to be altered to allow bamboo specifically, as even if it were to be recognised as a wood, this would still be illegal under the current Law, which bans lamination of the blade, except in junior bats.

"MCC’s role as Guardian of the laws includes maintaining the balance between bat and ball, and any potential amendments to the law would need to carefully take this into consideration, particularly the concept of the bat producing greater power."

In 2008 the MCC banned bats with a graphite shaft which were being used by professionals and amateur players and in 2017 the lawmakers cracked down on the increasing dimensions of modern bats by imposing a law that meant a bat could be a maximum of 108mm in width, 67mm in depth and 40mm edges.

The statement added: "Sustainability is a relevant topic for MCC and indeed cricket, and this angle of willow alternatives should also be considered.

"With the researchers stating that the most suitable types of bamboo grow abundantly across China and that low-cost production could make bamboo bats a viable and ethical alternative to willow, this could provide a pertinent angle for further research and the possibility of reducing the cost of producing bats in different areas of the world.

"The club will discuss the topic at the next laws sub-committee meeting."

The Telegraph reported on Monday how a Cambridge University study indicated that a prototype bamboo cricket bat had a larger sweet spot than a traditional willow blade, is stronger, more sustainable and cheaper to produce.

The lower cost could boost participation in countries such as India and China which have fewer financial resources, according to the research published in the Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology.

The study indicated that bamboo is 22 percent stiffer than willow which increases the speed at which the ball leaves the bat.

Researchers said the sweet spot on their prototype performed 19 percent better than that on a traditional willow bat and was closer to the toe.

Dr Darshil Shah of Cambridge's Centre for Natural Material Innovation, who is a former member of Thailand's under-19 national cricket team, said: "This is a batsman's dream.

"The sweet spot on a bamboo bat makes it much easier to hit a four off a yorker for starters, but it's exciting for all kinds of strokes.

"We'd just need to adjust our technique to make the most of it, and the bat's design requires a little optimisation too."

The investigations included microscopic analysis, video capture technology, computer modelling, compression testing, and testing for vibrations.

Players using bamboo bats would not feel any more vibration than with a willow bat, according to the research.

The study points out there is a shortage of good-quality willow, which takes up to 15 years to mature - mostly in England - to the point where the wood can be used to make cricket bats.

By contrast, the maturing age of Moso bamboo is five to six years and it grows abundantly in China, south-east Asia and South America.

Study co-author Ben Tinkler-Davies said: "Cricket brings you really close to nature, you spend hours out in the field, but I think the sport can do a lot more for the environment by promoting sustainability.

"We've identified a golden opportunity to achieve that while also helping lower income countries to produce bats at lower cost."

The materials used to make cricket bats are regulated by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the sport's governing body, and rules say "the blade shall consist solely of wood".

Dr Shah said: "Bamboo is a grass not a wood so there would need to be discussions with the MCC, but we think playing with a bamboo bat would be within the spirit of the game because it's a plant-based material and cane, a type of grass, is already used in the handle.

"Tradition is really important but think about how much cricket bats, pads, gloves and helmets have already evolved.

"The width and thickness of bats have changed dramatically over the decades.

"So if we can go back to having thinner blades but made from bamboo, while improving performance, outreach and sustainability, then why not?"

The pair tested the sound of leather on bamboo and Mr Tinkler-Davies insisted the frequency is "very similar" to willow, adding: "Whether you're playing or spectating, you wouldn't notice much of a difference.

"Our first prototype bat is 40% heavier than most full-size willow cricket bats so we now need to work out the optimum design to reduce that.

"Because laminated bamboo is so strong, we're very confident we can make a bamboo bat light enough, even for today's fast-scoring, short forms of the game."

The researchers hope to enter discussions with the MCC and leading bat manufacturers.

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