The Everyman’s Kit Bag Review, Part I

7 Jan

jemima khan

Cricket magazines tend to run reviews of cricket equipment – usually top of the range.  Maybe a pair of £80 gloves that, let’s face it, no one from your average club is going to buy.  There’s always that one guy who thinks he’s really good, so spends a silly amount of money on the stuff – but it’s never worth it.  So I’ve decided to talk with my cricket playing friends, delve into their kit bag and test their gear.  Basically, have a look at what the Everyman* cricketer has in their bag.

A bit of fun, but also informative.  Isn’t that always the way on my blog?!

Over the Christmas period, I met up with an old school mate of mine Dave.  Dave now runs this awesome website, where he eats snacks and then reviews them.  As well as being an amateur cake eater, he is also a handy cricketer who, in his youth, was sent bats by MRF to use in matches.  He has played for Swardeston CC in Norfolk for years, as a dashing right handed batsman, occasional ‘keeper and what can only be described as a purveyor of flighted filth.

I spoke to Dave, and he was more than happy for me to have a rummage around in his house and mess about with his stuff.

  • For the protective gear, I will be testing for the important things – comfort, ease of mobility whilst padded up, aesthetic value and of course, how protective it is – the ‘Ouch Rating’.
  • When I get onto his bats, of which I find three, I am again testing for the essentials – how the bat feels, how it looks and the all important ‘Bosh Factor’, which is the 100% scientific measurement of how far I can hit the ball when using the bat.
  • Once I’ve rated each individual aspect on a stunningly original scale of A+ to E- I’ll give an overall score out of 10, to let you know how worthwhile a purchase each piece of equipment is to an average weekend cricketer.

Inside his kit bag, a Gray-Nicolls custom bag that he got for winning an U15 Regional Finals years ago (or, to be more accurate, his cupboard under the stairs where he keeps his cricket gear), this is what I find:

1 pair of pads – Gray-Nicolls Fusion 4 Star – £45

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On first viewing, his pads are not the most attractive I’ve ever seen.  Radioactive green is not my favourite colour for I am not into raves and neon, neither has the classic chequered Gray-Nicolls’ style ever really won me over.  The sweat induced de-colouration at the knee roll area gives these pads an aura of both serious usage and the ownership of an incredibly sweaty man – but who can say their batting pads are not smelly and yellowing?  Not I.  When strapped on, they immediately pinch me – the top velcro strap is fairly narrow and not very comfortable, yet the mobility when wearing them is not affected by this.  I do some rather farcical jogs up and down his garden and they feel good.  They have not got the ‘contour’ style knee roll on the inside that you see on a lot of more recent designs, so my knee doesn’t fit into the pad as well as I’m used to, but overall, it’s not too bad.  But now the important test – the Ouch Factor.

Starting a metre away, Dave hurls a cricket ball at my legs, peppering my knees, shins and ankles.  We build it up until he is about 22 yards away and throwing it as hard as he can – but I feel nothing.  I even try throwing it at myself, from point blank rage, but still, no pain.  These pads have stood up to the barrage competently and I haven’t the slightest bit of pain.  Very impressive.

The results:

Appearance: C-
Comfort: C+
Ease of Mobility: B+
Ouch Factor: A

Rating: 7.4/10

1 pair of batting gloves –  Newbery Uzi 5 star – £20

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Now came the test that I wasn’t looking forward to – the gloves.  I, like most cricketers, have been hit on my hands and fingers more times than I care to remember – the best one leaving an imprint of the seam on my right thumb for a week.  Knowing that I’d have to use these gloves, which Dave himself described as “budget”, did not make me feel good.

Firstly, their appearance.  I liked how they looked – the bright orange/white design is striking and the different styles on each finger is a nice touch.  Moreover, Newbery’s own logo is one of the most eye-catching and memorable of all cricket companies and is one of my favourites.  They felt good too – my fingers didn’t feel constricted or immobile.  However, when I squeezed them through the gloves, I could definitely feel it – not a good sign come the test for the Ouch Factor.  Again, Dave took aim.  From about two metres, he threw the ball gently to begin with and onto the back of the hand.  I could feel it.  Then he aimed at my fingers, with more force – I could absolutely feel that.  Finally, I held a cricket bat as if I were taking evasive action from a Dale Steyn snorter – exposing my ring and little finger on my left hand. The most painful one of the lot.  Not impressed.

The results:

Appearance: A-
Comfort: B-
Ease of Mobility: B+
Ouch Factor: D

Rating: 4.9/10

1 pair of wicket-keeping gloves – SG Super League – £6.50

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I’m not a ‘keeper.  But Dave, in his younger days, was.  Always one of the shortest at school, he was a natural behind the sticks.  These gloves, I do believe, served him well.  I gave them a whirl.  I won’t mince my words – their aesthetic value is about zero.  Wearing them, although certain feels natural to regular wickies, felt weird and unnatural, though not unpleasant.  And clearly, trying to do things like text whilst wearing a pair of these gloves is going to be about as easy as roller skating in a buffalo yard.  But did they protect my hands?  Well, with the absence of inners, sort of.  In the firing range again, Dave wound up and unleashed some hard throws at me and they pretty much didn’t hurt.  After a while my hands grew tired and a bit sore, but it wasn’t too severe.  I was impressed by these, especially considering they cost £6.50 from a “dodgy man” in India.

The results:

Appearance: E-
Comfort: D+
Ease of Mobility: E-
Ouch Factor: B+

Rating: 7.6/10

1 helmet – Gray Nicolls Predator Pro – £50

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Like ‘keeping gloves, I don’t often wear a helmet when batting.  Again, my height makes this a legitimate decision.  I’m more likely to get hit on the head from a beamer than a bouncer.  Still, a lot of batsmen wear helmets, so I gave it a spin.  It wasn’t very comfortable – but then again are any helmets – nor was it very aesthetically pleasing.  I prefer the stream lined helmets as favoured by James Taylor, or the Masuri ones.  However, it is the most important piece of kit (apart from the box, surely), so I popped it on and readied myself for the brain damage hurtling my way in the form of Dave’s bullet arm.  Clearly having a cricket ball thrown at your head from three feet away is not a pleasant experience – but I did not get hurt doing this.  The helmet was actually a snug fit and at no point did I fear it would not protect me from the ball.  Be it Dave’s considerate throwing – the expectation of a throw like an Exocet missile did not materalise – or the helmet’s protective values, this was not as daunting as I feared it would be.  A good helmet, but then again, if Andrew Strauss is to model it, it should be good.

The results:

Appearance: C-
Comfort: B+
Ease of Mobility: B-
Ouch Factor: A-

Rating: 8.0/10

So, that’s the testing done for the protective gear.  The firing range emptied, we headed out to the park on a mild Thursday afternoon in early January to road test the THREE bats that I found in his cupboard.  Here’s what happened:

MRF Genius, circa 2007 – (free)

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Wrapped up in many hockey grips, heavily taped at the bottom – this bat reminds me of many weekends hitting a ball about with Dave.  When we were at school, I couldn’t believe that he was being sent bats that I’d seen Brian Lara use, and here it was, in my hands.  The red and gold design catching the light, the big, bold ‘MRF’ on the face of the bat.  A great cricket bat can be a beautiful thing, and this truly is.  Was.  Whatever.  It’s still as light as I remember it being, with a decent pick up.  The big edges, definitely heavily used over the years, give it a great deal of power.  However, the booming middle that used to send tennis balls flying on his driveway has diminished with age, and the cracks in the toe that occur with all bats make it a bit creaky.  Yet, when I give it a bash at the park, the ball goes flying.  It’s still got it.  My youth floods back into my memory with a terrifying amount of force.  If the cracks were to be filled in, it’d be a handy bat for a friendly, with the extra padding on the grip making it extremely comfortable to use.

The results:

Appearance: B+
Feel: B-
Bosh Factor: A-

Rating: 8.3/10

Woodworm Premier Torch, circa 2005 – £65

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In 2005, cricket in England went berserk.  Thanks mainly to Flintoff’s heroics, England won the Ashes, but a star was born – another batsman wielding the relatively unknown Woodworm bats.  KP used The Torch (Flintoff used the Flame) and Dave had one – he was ‘that guy’ at school.  With its distinctive design and exciting graphics, it was the business.  Back then it was awesome – how about now?  Well the answer is not good.  It’s about 7 years old, and barely comes up to my thighs, with absolutely no middle.  Incredible pick up based solely upon how light it is, this bat is not a good one.  Come the Bosh test, the ball barely reached Dave, standing roughly 30 metres away from me.  Considering they were flying over his head with the MRF, it showed how important a big middle on a bat is.  As they said on Star Trek (and on Google Chrome when it cocks up) – “He’s dead, Jim”.

The results:

Appearance: A-
Feel: C-
Bosh Factor: C-

Rating: 5.2/10

Slazenger Ultimate – £165, bought off his mate for a pittance

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Having taken a journey through the most boring memory lane ever, I end on the bat that Dave used during the 2012 season.  It is the Slazenger Ultimate, with the stickers fashionably removed – whether he did that or it was done by his mate, off whom it was bought for a fraction of the original price I do not know – but I like it.  I attempted to do the same with my old Puma bat, but it went terribly wrong.  I like plain bats, I think they have a simple class and elegance that you do not get with one covered in stickers and bits and bobs.  With the bright pink grip too, it’s a ‘bat of two halves’.  It feels great when I pick it up too – I like heavy bats, and although I do not know the exact weight of this bat, it feels good.  The edges are meaty, and when I take it to the park, I realise why Dave has been raving about it all afternoon.  It has a middle like a trampoline – balls are flying over his head and onto the road, I nearly kill two small boys who happen to be milling about as I strike one ball like an rocket.  It’s a beauty.

The results:

Appearance: A+
Feel: A
Bosh Factor: A+

Rating: 9.2/10

There we have it – the first review of a normal cricketers cricket bag.  There are some omissions – clearly I was not going to review his box, and when I asked if he would, he chose not to.  Chicken.  Also the thigh pad – I’ve never used one and we did debate it, but in the end we didn’t test it out.  If I could take just one thing from his kit bag – no questions asked, I’d take the Slazenger Ultimate.  It’s a great bat.

Comment below if you’d like me to test your kit!

Alex

———–

*I use the term Everyman in reference to the Everyman’s Library, which reprint classic literature.  Usually with a gorgeous cover, they were initially intended to be affordable to everyone, or, every man.  Get it?

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5 Responses to “The Everyman’s Kit Bag Review, Part I”

  1. TheSnackReview January 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Gahaha- I was in tears laughing by the time I got to the “slight sweat induced de-colouration at the knee roll ” part! It’s the sign of a good player I reckon- show me a club cricketer with clean pads and I’l show you a club cricketer who never bats for more than 5 minutes!

    Really, really great read AB. I’ve never seen a blog on a topic like this, and I seriously think that a lot of cricket fans will find this interesting. Especially the ‘bosh’ and ‘ouch’ ratings…

    I do actually have an amusing story RE my box- when I was visiting family in London as a kid (so about 8 or 9 years ago) my Auntie had an Italian woman staying with her. She was looking through my kit which I had with me and when she got to the box, she picked it up and put it over her mouth and nose thinking it was some kind of facial protection. Cue 10 English people laughing so hard at her that they were in tears. And they say we English don’t display our emotions…

    • Alex Britten January 7, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

      Ha, true! Mine are spotless, as you’d imagine!
      Thanks for letting me rifle through your gear, I had a great day testing stuff out. I’ve already written some notes on my own gear, and when the season starts I’ll be asking my comrades at Southwold to have a go on their kit!

      Hopefully this proves popular, share with your Swardeston mates and see what they think – maybe I can road test their kit too!

  2. Andy Hirst March 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    Only just read this – Funny!

    • Alex Britten March 7, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

      Cheers Hirsty! I hope to do a few more of these once the season starts…!!

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