None but an experienced hand can estimate the vital importance of attention to all such details: - that the bat is the right weight, and properly balanced; that the shoes, gloves and pads are perfect in their fit and appointment; in fine, that the player stand at the wickets, or in the field, fully equipped for the fray, yet no wise impeded or hindered by ill-fitting garments, clumsy shoes, or cumbersome pads.
First, then, for the bat. This is limited in rule 2 both as to length and width, but the thickness and weight are left to the fancy or capacity of the player. In a general way, a tall man can use a heavier bat than a short one.
About two pounds is a fair weight for a player of middle weight and medium muscular development.
Although it is a great mistake to play with a bat that is too heavy to handle with ease, yet the opposite extreme is none the less to be avoided.
Too heavy a bat cramps the play, and entirely prohibits that beautiful wrist play that is the 'ne plus ultra' of good batting - but on the other hand, one that is too light is useless for hard hitting, and can do little in the way of run-getting as against a good field, anything like a swift "shooter," too, will be apt to force its way past its impotent defense.
The points we must look for in a bat are these: first, weight suited to the player; secondly, good thickness of wood at the 'drive' - i.e., about four inches from the end, at which point the bat should be not less than one and three-quarters, or two inches in thickness, gradually tapering off up and down towards the end and towards the handle; thirdly, balance, so that when wielded there may be no sensation of deadweight at the end, as is painfully perceptible in all badly balanced bats - experience alone can teach the right 'feel' of a bat.
The outward appearance of bats should by no means be invariably taken as a true indication of their inherent merits; very often a very plain, unstylish-looking bat is worth a dozen well-got-up, taking-looking specimens, amongst which it may be placed; but the eye of a real connoisseur will pick out at once a likely bat from amidst a whole crowd of others.
Nevertheless, nothing but actual trial of each individual 'bit of willow' can bring out all its inherent qualities, good, bad, or indifferent.
Too much stress should not be placed on the possession of a first rate bat; good tools cannot make a good workman, nor a fine bat a fine batsman.
Yet, still, the good workman is not at his best without his old familiar tools, and in like manner the cricketer plays best with a well-approved bat in his hand.
It is a very common thing to hear men begging the loan of a bat that, in the hands of some skillful player, has just run up a long score, as if the virtue lay in the instrument, not in the skill of its user.
It may also be generally, almost invariably observed, that such men, although armed with the talismanic weapon, scarcely add much to its run-getting reputation.
A really good player will make runs with almost anything - a hedge-stake or a broomstick.
By-the-way, these are not such inefficient weapons as might be supposed.
But some specimens are so deficient in the requirements of a good bat, that the best use they can be put to is to be burnt.
Bats vary also very much in price, as well as in make; and price varies in different localities.
As regards balls and wickets, it will be found better economy to purchase a good article in the beginning.
With good treatment a full priced match ball will outlast half a dozen of the cheaper sort, and what is more to the point will be much better to play with throughout.
As regards wickets, practice wickets need only be stout and strong, but for matches, not only looks should be attended to, but also perfect accuracy of dimensions and workmanship.
Each separate stump should be rigidly, or as it is now more the fashion of the day to say - righteously straight: of exactly the regulation length, and perfectly free form knots and any kind of flaws.
This latter is a very important item, for any weakness is sure to be found out sooner or later, and a broken stump is not only unpleasant in a match, but entails, in most cases, the purchase of a new set.
The stumps being approved correct in all particulars, attention must be devoted to the balls, that they are of exactly the regulation length and thickness, and that they fit the grooves in the stumps neither too loosely nor too tightly, and that the grooves themselves are neither too deep or too shallow.
The grove should be of such a depth that exactly half the ball fits into it.
Special care should be taken not to let any portion of the ball project beyond the head of the stump, the difference of even the sixth of an inch may at any moment make all the difference between out and not out, and it should be remembered that losing a wicket thus through negligence is the same in effect as giving the opponents the odds of eleven wickets to ten on the game.
A good set of match wickets ought, if properly treated and cared for, to last many seasons.
A mere abstention from active injury, from leaving them about in the wet, with perhaps a little attention in drying them when they do chance to get wet, before putting them up, is all the care they require.
In choosing gloves, whatever pattern may be selected, and there are many new ones every season, the main thing to attend to is to get them to fit.
Nearly any kind of glove will afford the desired protection; if therefore pains be taken that the fit be perfect, and that the glove does not interfere with the grasp and easy handling of the bat, minor details are practically immaterial.
The same rule applies to foot-pads.
Each player must follow his own fancy in the choice between boots or shoes;
I, for my part, prefer to have the free unimpeded use of my ankles, and therefore wear only shoes, while many men require or think they require, external support to the ankles, and consequently wear boots with spring sides, or even, as I have in some cases known, tight laced boottees.
There is a very mistaken custom, whether invented solely by shoemakers or not, I cannot say, but certainly in general acceptance with them, arranging the spikes, one under the big toe, and two under the ball of the foot; the objections to this arrangement are these:
First, that in running as all the spring is from the toe, only one spike is available for giving a hold on the ground; secondly, that the spike on the outside sole is of no service whatever in this position; and thirdly, that on hard ground the ball of the foot is found to suffer considerably, even to the extent of being much blistered by the pressure of the spike.
The method of arrangement I have found most effective and most generally useful for all grounds and all weather, is this. The three spikes are arranged in the form of a triangle, the base toward the heel.
To give a further hold upon the ground, especially at the sides, I have added a double row of steel-headed nails, arranged zigzag round the toe, and down the inside of the side and heel.
Thus armed, the shoes give a hold upon the ground as near to perfection as possible.
The nailing should not be overdone, a common fault with enthusiastic amateurs, a third of an inch is the minimum of distance that should be allowed between nail and nail, half an inch is not too much.
If the nails be ranged too closely they will be found to have a most uncomfortable tendency to become clogged whenever the ground is the least heavy.
To some I may appear to lay too great stress upon details of dress and equipments, but the experience now of a good many seasons has convinced me that they are of the first importance - a cricketer, however great his natural capabilities, cannot play up to his full strength unless everything about him is in full keeping.
Every article of his attire and general outfit is an item on one side or the other of the account:
It is either an assistance or hindrance.
Ill-fitting head gear, a baggy sleeve, a tight boot, may make all the difference between a good or a bad innings, a successful or an unsuccessful turn with the ball, a day's enjoyment or a day's hard labor.
Therefore, I again repeat, see that everything be all right not necessarily a matter of any particular expense, before you join in any match, and you will add greatly to your enjoyment of it, and in equal measure increase the odds in favor of your success n all points of the game.
Return to Boys Own Book of Outdoor Sports