By David Reed, consulting editor
Crewe, UK -- A cricket bat with a thick surface layer of microcellular polyurethane foam certainly won't offer the traditional sound of "leather on willow," but its use may help players improve their game, according to developer, Bill Cornford.
The bat -- roughly half the size of a normal one, and also bright orange - is not intended for use during games, merely as a training aid, its developer explained, adding that the concept has been patented.
Initial prototypes used by coaches and cricketers on the England team allow batsmen to "sky" almost any ball bowled, in a reproducible way, thus giving fielders a great chance to practise their catching, Cornford explained. (And the England team is certainly in need any help they can get at present, judging from recent performances- Ed).
Cornford also hinted that the same construction could be used with baseball bats, again allowing the training of fielders, thanks to the reproducibility of trajectories possible.
While in development for well over a year, word has already leaked out to the international cricketing community, with a recent mention in The Times newspaper causing the phone to "ring off the hook," Cornford said, in a 12 Feb phone interview. Coaches of national and local teams as well as individual players are interested in hearing more about the bat, dubbed "The Skyer," and many are keen to get their hands on one, as soon as possible.
Which sounds fine, but there's a snag: "we can't get enough of the material required," Cornford admitted.
He has been sourcing the blocks of foam, measuring 4.5 x 12 x 1 inches (about 11 x 30 x 2.5 cm), from Germany, but is anxious to find a local, UK-based supplier to meet the fast-growing demand which, he estimates, could run into tens of thousands of units in the coming months.
These will be supplied through his firm Fusion Cricket (<http://www.fusioncricket.co.uk/>www.fusioncricket.co.uk), which is a long-established supplier of cricketing paraphernalia including a range of hand-made bats, using the traditional willow and custom-built to suit an individual player.
A woodworker by trade, Cornford was sketchy about the technical details of the foam, but described the material used as being microcellular, with no surface skin and a density in the 300-600 kg/cu.m range; two foam variants gave quite different performance, so he is keen to find out what different materials can be supplied.
If you can help, he'll be happy to hear from you: Tel +44 (0)1270 256 120.