Ponting calls for limits on bat sizes

Former Australia captain to suggest rule change at MCC World Cricket Committee

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has weighed into the debate on the increasingly chunky cricket bats, admitting he’d like to see a limit on bat thickness in Test cricket.

A member of the MCC World Cricket Committee, a ‘complementary body to the ICC’ comprised of past and present international cricketers, Ponting hopes to see a rule change brought about at next week’s meeting (July 11 and 12) at Lord’s.

Big bats are hardly a new phenomenon; the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, and more recently, MS Dhoni and Chris Gayle have long wielded heavy pieces of willow.

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But what has become a concern in recent times is the ability of bat-makers to produce bats with thicker edges without adding extra weight to them. By using denser wood, seen in David Warner’s bats for instance, players now have access to huge, but relatively light, bats.

While insisting he doesn’t blame players for using the best equipment available to them, Ponting believes these advances in technology have skewed the balance between bat and ball in Tests. 

“If you are strong enough to use them that’s fine, but you should not get a bat that’s bigger in size than Dhoni’s but a whole lot lighter,” the 41-year-old said at the Australian Cricket Society’s annual dinner.

“Chris Gayle’s the same. Everyone talks about Chris Gayle’s bat size, but it’s 3½lbs. He’s big enough and strong enough to use it.

“I only get worried when they are really big and really light.”

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Ponting will outline his concerns at the MCC World Cricket Committee meeting next Monday but is likely to face some debate on the matter in future meetings from former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum.

Speaking to last month, McCullum, who will join the committee in October this year, said he considers the current regulations on bat sizes to be adequate.

“It’s still wood though isn’t it?” McCullum said of modern bats. “Ultimately, if you can find the best piece of wood you shouldn’t be penalised for that.

“It’s a natural product - it’s wood. If you’ve got the right people to find a piece of wood for you that’s big and you’re able to lift then, in my mind, play on. 

“You’ve still got to be able to lift them. My bats are 3lbs 1oz for instance but you’ve got to lift them and that’s the thing.

“You’ve still got to be able to hook it off your nose when someone sniffs you at 140, 150 kph. You’ve got to get to the gym and get bigger and stronger. That’s the evolution of the game.

“I don’t think they need to regulate bat sizes, personally. You shouldn’t be penalised for being able to lift a heavy bat or play with a heavier bat.”

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A report commissioned by the MCC in 2014 found that while the length and width of bats has remained steady over the years, both the thickness of the blade and the size of the 'sweet spot' have increased dramatically.

The report found that bat thickness has increased up to 22 mm over the past century and the size of the 'sweet spot' on the face of the bat is almost two-and-a-half times larger.

The thickness of edges in modern bats has also increased by almost 300 per cent which, combined with greater stiffness to limit vibrations, means mis-hits can travel much further.

Barry Richards compares one of his old bats with one of Warner's in 2015 // Getty
Barry Richards compares one of his old bats with one of Warner's in 2015 // Getty

Despite those findings, the World Cricket Committee decided against placing any restrictions on bat sizes at a 2014 meeting.

But Ponting believes a different verdict could be reached at next week’s conference, set to feature fellow Australian members and former Test players Rod Marsh and Tim May, suggesting he’d like to the rule change applied only to the longest format of the game.                  

“I think it will happen,” he said. “I am going in a couple of weeks for a World Cricket Committee meeting and that will be one of the topics talked about.

“I don’t mind it (big bats) for the shorter versions of the game. I would actually say you’ve got a bat you can use in Test cricket and a certain type of bat you can use in one-day cricket and T20 cricket. 

“The short forms of the game survive on boundaries — fours and sixes — whereas the Test game is being dominated too much now by batters because the game is a bit easier for them than it was.”

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