On purchasing a new cricket bat, you will understandably be eager to try it out as soon as possible. However, before using a new bat in a competitive environment, you must carry out some essential conditioning. The average bat requires around six hours of preparation; it’s not a quick process, but it’s the only way to get your bat ready for heavy usage.
The first step will involve oiling the bat to moisten the wood and form a supple, elastic surface. A popular choice is raw linseed oil – raw rather than boiled as it stays moist for longer. Just a teaspoonful of oil rubbed in with a small rag stops cricket bats cracking on impact. You should repeat this procedure three times, allowing the oil time to soak in between each application.
The next stage is the knocking in process. Ideally this should be carried out using a hardwood bat mallet, although an old, high quality cricket ball would also do the trick. Begin by gently hitting the middle of the bat, just hard enough to create a dent, and then focus in on the edges, which are more vulnerable. Spend a couple of hours gradually working up the pressure, making sure you cover the whole face of the bat. Eventually, you should be hitting the bat with a force that replicates the impact of a real cricket ball delivery. By the end you should not be able to see a mark from any individual knock and the face of the bat should be level. Throughout the process, never knock the bottom or back of the cricket bat.
Once you have oiled and knocked in your bat, take it for a practice session before using it competitively and avoid bat-breaking cheap and overly hard cricket balls. After a few hours in the nets your bat will finally be ready. The process may take time, but you’ll notice just how worth the effort it is when you can stride up to the wicket with complete confidence in the new, beautifully sculpted bat under your arm.