London: Twenty20 has made a virtue of challenging cricket convention and if an English inventor is right, the next thing to be abandoned will be the long-standing design of the bat itself.
Marcus Codrington Fernandez, inspired by a 30-year-old video clip of former England batsman Geoff Boycott, has come up with a new design very much in tune with the devil-may-care attitude of the Twenty20 game.
The result is a bat that looks rather like a hefty brick on the end of a very long stick.
There is little in the way of shoulder—the bit you need to play those defensive shots against the quicks—but a much larger “sweet” section that can help even mistimed strokes race towards the boundary.
Those who remember Boycott as an excruciatingly slow-scoring batsman may consider him an unlikely inspiration for a bat designed for an all-out attack. But if the Mongoose is a success, the Yorkshireman may go down as the patron saint of big hitting.
“I got into bat design completely by accident,” Fernandez said as he demonstrated the bat at a public pitch in East London.
“I worked in the media for 20 years and then three years ago I had a stroke, which took me out of civilized life for a year.
He added: “It was at that point I was watching Geoff Boycott batting on YouTube and it struck me that the bat he was using was identical to the one being used today in Twenty20 games, where the objective is to hit the ball out of the park every time, not to do what Boycott was doing all those years ago.
“So, the game seemed to have moved on and was fundamentally different, but the equipment was identical.”
Fernandez added: “This bat is designed for Twenty20.”
There have been attempts to introduce new bats before, but they have tended to focus on the use of new materials, notably the aluminium bat used by Dennis Lillee in 1979 and ultimately rejected by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the sport’s guardians.
The difference here is that the Mongoose is made with the same materials as any other bat, and MCC has, therefore, given it its blessing.
“The MCC (was) extremely encouraging and supportive. They were open-minded and forward thinking in a way many wouldn’t have expected,” the inventor said.
While the big-hitting Australian Stuart Law has given the bat enthusiastic backing, and already used it to some effect, Fernandez concedes that the World Twenty20 starting on Friday has probably come too soon for the Mongoose, with the major players already signed up to bat contracts.
The buzz surrounding the bat suggests a lot more players will be trying it soon, however, and not just the sluggers.
“Interestingly, lots of the pro-players who want to use this bat are the opening batsmen, who aren’t renowned for hitting the ball very hard,” Fernandez said.
“They’re looking to hit it harder, to get into the one-day squad, the Twenty20 squad in their teams and they see this as a route forward,” he added.
Using the bat, you certainly do feel that you are middling the ball more often. “I’m not the most powerful of batsmen, so it gives me an advantage,” said Ben Sanders, vice-captain of the London Fields Cricket Club, after testing the bat. “You can mistime it, but it still races away.”
His teammate Paul Teasdale added: “It plays really nice. It’s just all middle, so you can toe it and it can still go.”
A quick look around the Web shows that the makers have chosen a name that is a headline writer’s dream, not surprising, given the inventor’s media background.
“We call it the Mongoose because this bat is small and it’s ferocious,” Fernandez said. “It’s also an underdog. We’re up against 240 years of tradition since the last bat was designed.”