Modern-day cricket bats have evolved from centuries of experiments and research. The first possible date when a bat was used for this game has been noted as 1624. But the hard facts point to almost a century further ahead, to 1729.
Whatever the exact date, it doesn’t change the fact that today’s bat is the result of research and experimentation over these centuries. All kinds of weights, sizes and grips have been tried to find out the best choice that allows a player to swing hard and rotate the wrists easily. But the material used and the manufacturing process hasn’t changed a lot, with the same English Willow wood (Salix alba caerulea) and linseed oil still in use.
Thing is that the amount of experimentation possible is limited by the rules aka the laws of cricket. These rules explicitly state that a bat has to be wooden. It also says the bat has to be at most 38 inches from the toe bottom to handle top. The width of the blade cannot be more than 4.25 inches.
So what’s left are the relative lengths of the handle and the blade, and the bat’s weight. Whether the bat is hand-made or machine-made may make a difference, and so will the type of grip. These choices are best left to the individual players, depending on their physique and batting style.
It’s still possible to sneak in a bit of research into it, as proven by the recent use of cricket bats with ultra-light carbon handles. Another company has come up with a bat that’s flat on both sides. The standard bat is flat on the front side, while the back is ridged with all the weight balanced along the length of the bat’s center.
Some players are testing a bat supported by special carbon-polymer. Another one that is now being used by attacking players has a short, thick blade with a long handle. Just like the game itself, cricket bats too are evolving slowly with time and as per changes to the game’s format and rules.