Almost all new English Willow cricket bats require knocking in before use. Knocking in is the process of hardening and conditioning of the blades surface. There are two reasons for knocking in:
• Protecting the bat from cracking and increase its usable life
• Improving the middle of the bat so it is bigger and better
The best way to care for your bat is to focus on the word “care”. Care comes out of respect. As long as you respect your gears, which will come automatically if your respect the game and all things connected to it, you will have the conscience to take good care of your bat. I used to play with the same bat for at least 3 years (eventually someone took it from me). I knew perfectly well how to take care of my willow simply because I was fully aware of the time and effort it took a bat maker to make it for me.
• Apply a light coat of raw linseed oil to the front, edges, to and back of the bat blade using a soft cloth while bat is kept in a horizontal position. BE SURE NOT TO OIL THE SPLICE AREA OF BAT
• Allow raw linseed oil to completely dry and repeat this process for 2-3 applications.
• To comfort you, all English Willow bats are pre-knocked and are ready to play.
Using an old leather ball (or bat mallet) gently tap the front face of the bat for around 2 hours to slowly compress the fibers in the bat.
• Increase force gradually and slowly work your way around the edges of the bat till it starts to show a nice rounded corner around the edge.
• Start using your bat to hit short catches using an old ball.
• Progress to using the bat in the nets to play light defensive shots using older leather balls, eventually moving up to newer leather balls, then playing harder shots, before using in a match.
• The face, edges and especially the toe of the bat, must be kept dry at all times. Moisture will affect the quality of your bat and can lead to increased cracks and splits.
• Small cracks may appear in your bat, this is completely normal. These may be lightly sanded out and have linseed oil applied to the affected areas. Or have the Anti scuff sheet applied to the face of the bat to help prevent cracking to the face & edges. Clean all dirt from the face of the bat using a light sand paper and apply linseed oil to the areas sanded.
• Always store your bat in a clean, dry environment. Never store your bat in a car for extended periods of time as this may lead to swelling of the timber.
The willow tends to dry when it is exposed to a condition where there is a lack of moisture in the air. While it is good to keep the bat away from moisture, you don’t want the bat to freeze dry. Many are under a misconception that bats that are well oiled and knocked in well prior to its use will remain the same throughout its duration of use. Not so, regardless of where you live. The blades tend to dry and the drier the blade the harder it gets. The harder it gets, the less its rebounding effect. This gets worse if you live in an area that is cold and dry. When not in use, keep the bat oiled and store it in a place that has ambient temperature. For example, do not store your bat in the garage that can have freezing temperatures during the cold months.
It is helpful if you check it from time to time and use a bat mallet or a good hard ball (preferably an old ball) to knock the bat. This will ensure that your bat remains in good condition throughout the duration of its use.