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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Bat maker defends graphite innovation

By Oliver Brett

Ricky Ponting hitting a six at Auckland with his controversial bat

When Dennis Lillee marched out to the middle against England at Perth 26 years ago with an aluminium bat, he was soon told to send it back again.

Lillee faced only four balls before concern was expressed about the condition of the ball and he was forced to switch to a traditional willow.

Now the MCC has revealed it is investigating, at the request of the International Cricket Council, whether a graphite-coated bat used by Australian skipper Ricky Ponting complies with the rules of the game.

But the company which manufactures it cannot understand what all the fuss is about.

The back of the bat carries a branded sticker which happens to include a thin layer of graphite.

Unlike Lillee's bat, however, the ball-striking face of the blade is unadulterated wood.

And Brett Elliot, UK managing director of Kookaburra, is confident the bat does not contravene any laws at all.

"It's all a little bit of hysteria but I'm a little bit concerned about the MCC and the concerns they have," he tells BBC Sport.

"We are happy that the power ratio between bat and ball is protected.

Denniss Lilele and Mike Brearley
Dennis Lillee's aluminium bat once upset Mike Brearley

"There's never been an approval process for cricket bats - you don't have to have an MCC sticker.

"All the manufacturers read the laws and make their own products accordingly."

The people at Kookaburra believe the graphite strengthens the bat and gives it enhanced rigidity.

This is important because, as Elliot explains, the reason we see people changing their bats so often is that a well knocked-in bat is the most liable to break.

"When a bat gets near its peak, it also gets near its most vulnerable point. [The graphite backing] should stop splitting, yorker damage, toe damage - that sort of thing.

"It doesn't make the bat super-strong but the Aussie press have had some fun because Ricky has hit some form and has averaged over 100 since he started using it last Boxing Day."

Elliot insists the thickness of the graphite does not exceed the 1.5mm maximum.

And he finds it hard to believe anyone could think his company was advocating a bat that damages balls.

"We have been making cricket balls since 1802 and currently supply balls for every one-day international and nine out of 11 Test match nations.

Marcus Trescothick
Trescothick's Gunn & Moore has small, non-graphite stickers

"The last thing we would do is create that something that damaged our balls."

Gunn & Moore, meanwhile, rival suppliers of bats to some big names of their own in Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs, have no plans to use graphite backings.

Marketing director David Broughton said: "We have not found it necessary to consider doing it at all.

"We have a much bigger concern about the proliferations of stickers on bats in general - to the gradual obliteration of the rest of the bat."

Interestingly, this is where this whole story started - by Kookaburra approaching the ICC with a query relating to the quantity of branding on their bats.

Kookaburra were then referred to the MCC and a can of worms was duly opened.

England's experienced middle order batsman Graham Thorpe has also been experimenting with the special backing.

And Ponting's team-mate Damien Martyn, plus Sri Lankans Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara, also have the option of graphite enhancement.

They will all be interested to hear the ICC Cricket Committee's verdict when they discuss it next month.





SEE ALSO
Ponting wary of improved England
30 Mar 05 |  Cricket
Ponting enters new era
07 Mar 04 |  Cricket


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