Cricket Bat Care and Maintenance: Oiling, Knocking-In, Summer and Winter Maintenance
Don`t over do it! On purchase, a cricket bat requires a light oiling of all areas except the splice. Using a soft cloth, apply a thin coat of raw linseed oil to the face, edges, toe and back of the bat. Leaving the bat in a horizontal position, do not use it for one week, preferably two weeks. After that time, give the bat a very light sanding and a further light oiling (excluding the back this time). Leave in a horizontal position for a few days before starting the knocking-in process. Higher-grade bats should receive a further light sanding and very light oiling after stage 2 of knocking in (see below). If a face sheet has been applied to the bat, do not oil the face or areas around the edge of the sheet; you can still oil the back of the bat if you wish.
While the need to `run-in` a car has diminished with man-made technology, the same cannot be said of the raw materials involved in cricket bat manufacturing. The knocking in process is ideally completed in five stages. The weakest part of the blade is the edge and knocking in should concentrate on this area. 1/ Using an old ball or preferably a bat mallet, starting gently, strike the bat to mimic a ball deflecting off the edge of the bat. 2/ Increase the impact and continue until the edges have visible rounded. 3/ Again with an old ball or mallet, work gently on the face of the blade. 4/ Use the bat in a net session against older balls. 5/ Finally, increase the hardness of the ball, perhaps with some throw-downs.
Temperatures in a car (even in a British summer but especially in other cricket playing countries) will reach a level that will dry out a bat as if it had been left next to a fire or radiator. Wherever possible, remove your bat from the car as soon as possible and store as per `winter care` below.
Willow has a natural moisture content and ideal storage conditions should allow natural absorption of moisture. An obvious comment you would think but bat breakage is often caused by poor storage. If you leave your bat in a warm, centrally heated room or next to a fire, it will dry out, go brittle and be susceptible to damage. If you leave your bat lying on a damp surface, it will absorb too much moisture and the toe will become swollen. The ideal place for a bat over winter is in a garage or shed with a sealed floor - this will provide sufficient but not excessive moisture. If the floor is not sealed, support the bat above the floor.
Check your bat for damage that may deteriorate as the season progresses; take action to repair the damage if minor (facing tape or sheet) or use a professional repair service. If the bat is clear of damage, you can optionally oil the bat as above.