Aussie pacemen against more willow power

Published: Sunday, May 13, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Batsman's unfair advantage in cricket has forced two former Aussie fast bowlers to lash out at skipper Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey's move to get their willow developed into a space-age superbat capable of greatly increasing hitting power.

In the latest instance of batsmen gaining advantage over bowlers, manufacturer Kookaburra - sponsor of run machines Hussey and Ponting - and the Australian Research Council have undertaken a 600,000-dollar project at RMIT University, Melbourne, to develop the 'Smartbat' that will offer batsmen an even bigger 'sweet spot'.

Commentators Geoff Lawson and Brendan Julian are adamant the project should be stopped as the game has become too easy for batsmen.

They contended that technology was killing cricket and the International Cricket Council (ICC) must confront the issue in the same way baseball and golf administrators have done.

''No bat manufacturer should be allowed to make a bat of this nature,'' Lawson said. ''It unbalances the game, it should be dealt with and should be outside the rules.

''[Ponting and Hussey] are genius players. But bat technology helps them a lot already. Do we really need bats hitting further than they are already? Will Kookaburra now change their balls so they swing more? The balls are doing less, the pitches are bland and bats allow batsmen to hit the ball further with less effort,'' Lawson added.

He also criticised the game's governing body for maintaining silence on the matter, saying ''The ICC has been strangely quiet about this whole issue.'' Julian also expressed similar views, saying the game's administrators must cap the bat evolution.

''It's no different to Major League Baseball, where they got the manufacturers to stop taking their equipment to the next level,'' he said.

''It's time they said, 'Let's limit the technology', and if they are going to continue down that path, there must be some way to bring it back the other way. I'm against it because it's got to be evened up a bit.

''The one-day game is becoming a case of put the ball in the right spot so the batsman can hit it as far as he can -- 360 runs isn't necessarily a great game. Sixes and fours are not the only great entertainment in cricket. I like to see a fast bowler giving a batsman a challenge. Batsmen top edge now and it goes for six,'' Julian told Herald Sun.

The Smart Cricket Bat, to be released next year, cuts vibration in the handle, which features sensors and vibration-absorbing synthetic material. The bat uses the same ''active vibration control'' formula that puts the zing in baseball bats and tennis racquets.

The company last year voluntarily withdrew the graphite-backed Kahuna bat after an ICC request. Kookaburra Sport managing director Rob Elliott admitted these new bats would push the limit of legality.

''We're trying to push the envelope,'' he said. ''We want to work closely with the game's administration - and keep them on their toes.

''At all times we are very conscious of the spirit of the game and in no way will we change the balance between the bat and the ball.

''We don't want to change the balance of the game. That's a critical point. We're not trying to make a cricket bat which will hit the ball out of the ground every time they walk out to use it.

They seem to be able to do that without any help.

''It's all about trying to make strong, robust handles. The cost of willow went up between 20 and 30 per cent this year and that means the price of bats goes up, so we need to prolong the life of the willow in the best interests of the user. That's where Kookaburra is coming from.


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