Study suggests bamboo cricket bats could outperform wood
Ever since the 1890s, cricket bat blades have been made of willow wood. According to a new study, however, bamboo bats should offer better performance and a lower environmental footprint, plus they could make the sport more accessible to people living in poor countries.
Led by Dr. Darshil Shah and design engineer Ben Tinkler-Davies, scientists at the University of Cambridge recently collaborated with cricket bat manufacturer Garrard & Flack to create the prototype bamboo bats used in the research.
They're made of commonly grown Moso and Guadua bamboo, the stems of which were split lengthwise and planed flat, with the resulting pieces then being stacked and laminated together to form solid planks which were subsequently cut to size. When tested, the resulting devices reportedly offered several advantages over traditional willow bats.
First of all, the bamboo bats were found to be more than three times stronger than their wooden counterparts. Although the first prototype was 40 percent heavier than a willow bat, the researchers believe that due to bamboo's higher strength, it could ultimately be used to make bats that are as strong as willow bats but that are considerably thinner and lighter.
Additionally, the bamboo bats were shown to be 22 percent stiffer. When both the bamboo and the tested willow bats were manufactured, a "knock-in" process was used to compress the surface of the bat material into a hardened layer. After five hours of treatment, the layer on the bamboo bats was twice as hard as that on the willow. That said, when the different types of bats were used to hit balls, the amount of force travelling down the bat and into the player's hands was found to be about the same for both materials.
It was also observed that the "sweet spot" on the bamboo bats performed 19 percent better than that on a willow bat. This was partially because the spot was considerably larger – measuring about 20 mm wide by 40 mm long (0.8 by 1.6 in) – plus it was closer to the bottom of the bat's blade.
Finally, while the willow wood used in bats is harvested from trees that only grow in certain regions – and that grow slowly – bamboo grows quickly in many parts of the world. This means that forests wouldn't need to be cut down in order to acquire the material, plus people in impoverished nations could build their own bats instead of importing them from other countries.
One potential hurdle lies in the fact that the Marylebone Cricket Club, which is the sport's governing body, states in its rules that a bat's blade must be made of wood – and bamboo is actually a type of grass. Nonetheless, the scientists are hoping that based on the advantages of bamboo, an amendment could be made.
"Tradition is really important but think about how much cricket bats, pads, gloves and helmets have already evolved," says Dr. Shah. "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?".
A paper on the research was recently published in the Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology.
Source: University of Cambridge