I'm Not the Only One Pissed Off
Article on The Wisden Cricketer blog that seems to say the same thing I was saying earlier about the media reactions to IPL in general and Modi in particular, especially from non-Indian journos/commentators. Bottomline is, as long as the cricket is honest and hard fought, does the other stuff matter? Depends on what you are looking for, I guess. If you're like Arjun, you'd focus on the target and nothing else. If you're not Arjun, then the surrounding fluff assumes greater significance. The IPL has been delivering on its basic premise - the best cricketers in the world playing tough, entertaining cricket. Unlike last year, no one has been phoning it in. Everyone who's taken the field has tried hard, and that should be enough if you really love the game.
About an year back, I went looking for a new bat.
The hallmark of a really good bat is that when you play a shot, all you feel is springy response at the moment of contact and nothing else. I had an SG Kashmir Willow bat that gave me that kind of response when the ball hit anywhere from just above the toe to just below the halfway point of the blade. I was able to hit balls high and out of the park if it caught the right spot on the bat, without feeling almost any effort. The problem was the bat had really bad pickup, and made my wrists hurt after a while. About what you'd expect from Kashmir Willow.
Problem is, in Miami there are no Cricket shops, and I would have to shop on the internet. After a lot of comparision searching, I decided on a Gunn & Moore Purist 303 - a Grade 3 English Willow bat. It looked real good in the photos. Big Mistake. The bat arrived, and it looked great but the performance has been disappointing. The bat has good pickup and is surprisingly light, but it has almost no power. Even regular shots cause a jolt to travel up the arms. Not one of the strokes I have played has given me that characterstic "bat-kissing-the-ball-goodbye" feeling you expect from a good bat. Worse, it cost me $ 139 US plus shipping. I wuz robbed!
At first I thought the bat just needed more knocking so I hung a ball in a sock in the backyard and spent a couple more hours working at it. It felt right doing that, but at the crease facing a bowler, the jolt remained. One of my friends who also tried it, termed it best when he said, "ye bat current deta hai".
Learning a lesson from that, I finally located a shop in Ft Lauderdale and went and tried a lot of their bats out. Checked out SG, Slazenger, Kookaburra, GN and G&M, and finally setlled on a G&M Maxi 707. This is a discontinued model, Grade 2 English Willow bat, with a lot more meat than the Purist 303, and although I prefer LH, this SH bat just felt right in the hands. I spent about 5 hours over the next month carefully knocking it in, first with an old ball, and then with a ball mallet, and then took it out to a match. Bingo!! Pure pleasure. Scored only 18 from 10 balls, with one 4 and a 6, but the bat felt great. I had put 3 grips on it - I have big hands - and it just fit perfectly into my hands. Hitting the 6 was just effortless. The 4 was a square cut between point and cover and the ball went off the bat like a dream. No current. Its nice and heavy at 2lb14 and despite the weight, it has great pickup - fast and painless. The edges are thick, and there is a lot of meat in the middle, and it seems to have a nice big sweetspot all up and down the blade. Shots from higher up have the same power as shots from lower down the bat. On the whole, its money well spent.
Then my wife decided to gift me another bat. I had always wanted to try a Grade 1 Willow, so I decided on an MRF Genius Exclusive LE. God's own Bat!! And the price was just too good to pass up. Ordered it off the internet, and it arrived in 5 days, shipped directly from Jallandher. It is a beautiful bat, and even though it is 2lb12, it is surprisingly light. The pickup is amazingly fast and light. In fact, it seems to get lighter as the backlift gets higher. The secret is the arched spine on the blade, instead of the traditional hill profile for G&M or other bats. They scoop out a lot of the extra meat on the back, while still leaving enough for the required power and end up with a much lighter bat. The reverse arch this creates gives the bat the needed power, without the extra wood which would make it heavy. Nice idea, whoever came up with it. (G&M now have it too in their new Icon bats.) The edges are also nice and thick. I'm knocking it in right now. They recommend more knocking in than other bats - almost 8-10 hours of it. I hope to play with it on the 31st. Lets see if it lives up to the billing.