It is rare to buy a new cricket bat and not have to knock it in before you first use it. Before taking it for use at your first practice session of the season it is important to go through a thorough knocking in process to harden and condition the surface of the blade. You can either choose to knock in your cricket bat at home, or utilise the services of a professional cricket bat oil and knock in service to ensure that it is of the highest quality before you go to the crease and play to your maximum levels.
There are a couple of good reasons for knocking in a cricket bat. Firstly knocking a cricket bat in will protect it from cracking. The more you use a cricket bat without knocking it in, the more likely it is to suffer from cracks on the surface and the less time you’ll have to use it. Lengthening the shelf life of your cricket bat is important as you don’t want to go through a number of bats each season. Secondly, knocking in your bat is vitally important to the way you play, improving the middle of the bat and making it bigger, and better to use when you are facing cricket balls at a fast pace. It offers you some more control and power through your bat.
The speed with which a cricket ball is bowled and the way in which a batsmen will swing, means that the contact of ball to bat is potentially a very damaging one to the piece of equipment. You want to do everything possible to ensure a long and productive life for your cricket bat so oil and knock it in before you use it at all!
For those cricket bats made from willow it is important to understand the process behind making them what they are, and why you have to take extra care with it. In its natural state, willow is quite a soft timber and it is only using a mechanical press, with great power behind it, that can press the willow into a resilient and hard block, ready to be shaped into the wonderful cricket bat. This mechanical press isn’t enough to completely protect the bat however, and this is where knocking in comes into play.
If you are to knock your cricket bat in by hand, use a mallet. First though, apply some oil to the surface. This moistens the bat and helps to knit the fibres together to form an elastic surface that will stretch as the ball hits, rather than crack. Spread the oil over the face of the bat carefully (leave overnight) and repeat three times prior to compressing the surface.
Using a hardwood bat mallet you can then begin to hit the middle of the bat gently, but hard enough in order to create a dent. You should then continue to compress the face of the blade until you can no longer see the original dent and the bat is level. Strike the edges at 45 degrees to the face in order to round them off. You should knock in your bat for 10 minutes at a time, for between 10-15 sessions until it is ready to use.