Hi, welcome to my updated 2010 guide for what to watch out for and what to look for when buying Cricket bats on eBay.
I'm not trying to write an extensive list but just to highlight some of the pitfalls and give you enough information to know what is a great bat at a great price and which ones are too good to be true. We all want to use a top quality bat that will stroke or smash the ball to the boundry, but how do we find one? By buying from eBay you are missing out on some of the most important factors in choosing a Cricket Bat so you need to know what to look for.
Firstly every bat, even 2 identical looking models at the same weight will pick up differently, this is because no 2 pieces of willow are the same. Picking up the bat and accessing the balance is the best way to chose a bat, so know what weight and balance your bat is first before replacing it. Most sellers will be able to give an idea of the pick up in relation to the weight in a basic form such as a high middle or light pick as opposed to a low middle or heavy pick up. Try your team mates bats for pick up and balance and note what you liked and did not like. Remember that adding an extra grip will add about 1 ounce to the dead weight but will make the bat balance better. If the weight is listed as 2.8/9 then you can bet it will be 2.9 or even more as scales tend not to lie but sellers can dress up the listing to suit themselves.
Willow quality is another area that should looked at well, a lot of poor quality bats are sold as something much better or worse, sold as a fakes. To avoid this know what willow grading is and means. All bats are made from willow which comes from 2 main sources, England and Kashmir. English willow is used for the majority of bats as it is the finest available by some way. It is graded from 1 down to 5 and this is a refection of the visual appearance of the face. Grade 1 will be straight clean grains with only a small edge of Red Heartwood at the most, no knots, blemishes or marks in the face. More Heartwood and a slight wobble in the grains with a little fleck and speck will be grade 2 with more visual defects as the grade lowers. However there is little or no loss of performance with a lower grade of willow. Kashmir willow is very cheap and used for the bottom of the range bats due the poor performance and life compared to English willow. Beware seller listing Kashmir willow as English Willow Nurtured in India to convey the meaning that it is as good as true English willow, it isn't. Also beware those who upgrade the willow to make more money. A grade 1 bat will only have a thin sliver of Heartwood and the grains will be even and straight, it if does not look perfect then they are pulling a fast one.
The majority of good and bad bats will be listed as grade 1, only 5% of all English willow is grade 1 so how do all the sellers have it? Simple they have either been conned by the brands or are conning you. True grade 1 will have dead straight and evenly spaced grains with only a strip of heartwood in one edge as maximum. There will be no knots or blemishes in the face and it will look perfect. If there are any faults in the face then it will be lower grade and not cost as much to buy. It is very common for people to list as grade 1 willow and then take a poor picture on purpose to hide this, no clear photo should stop you from bidding, real or not it is not worth taking the risk. If you do buy a bat that is not as described then contact the seller straight away and if you are not offered a refund and return of the goods make a paypal claim straight away. If they have nothing to hide then they will not refuse you a refund, don't buy to look, if it is as described you will not get a refund.
Wholesale bat prices are roughly as follows for Indian imports, Grade 1, £70, Grade 2, £60, Grade 3, £50, Grade 4, £40. If you have a seller offering you prices less than these costs then they it is very likely they are lying. There is a seller who lists his own brand under his private account and sell what he calls English grade 2 bat for £49.99 or best offer plus postage. When you add his costs to the price of the bat, such as stickers, grips, ebay listing and selling fee's, paypal fees and VAT then it will not come as a huge surprise that he is in fact buying Kashmir willow and selling it as English grade 2. Its Bull*** and you should not stand for it.
Many brands are now faked and these should be avoided at all costs. There are two mains ways in which sellers try and con the buyer. First they import cheap bats with poor willow quality and often include bats that have storm damage or incorrectly fitted handles as there is no option of returning the bat or getting it fixed by the manufacturer. These bats have poor imitation labels and are not legal. Secondly they list the bat as Test Quality English Willow and only in the small print do they state that the bat is Kashmir willow with stickers added.
Avoid the "cute" sellers who buy labels from Australia where you can get genuine brand stickers and apply them to poor bats. They will state that the bat was bought from Australia at great expense and they will be selling it brand new and unused at a major loss. One seller has sold 300 of these bats without being banned, how? well he never directly says the bat is genuine and the lack of the correct toe guard is because he thinks oiling the toe is better than the plastic barrier. If you are thinking of buying one of these bats then remember that to find the real price of the bat you have just paid £50-100 for he will have spent £20 on stickers and grip, £10 on listing and selling fees and made a profit as well. That does not leave much money for the bat itself which will be a very poor low grade bat with many faults and flaws.
The most common fake stickers are Puma, Slazenger including the new V1, V2 and V3 versions, GM Icon, Reebok, Adidas and Kookaburra. You might also find your new bat has loose fitting stickers, some people will peel the real stickers off a top bat and apply them to a cheap one selling it on as the real thing. I can tell you that real stickers don't peel off with ease so if yours are loose then it is likely to have been tampered with.
Try and buy as good a brand as possible as a true hand made bat will out perform a machine made bat or mass produced import. Ask where the bat was made, a lot of firms are starting up and avoid stating where their bats are made. It is very easy to import a cheap bat and add your own labels but the bats do not play as well as ones from the true masters of bat making. Remember that only Newbery, Gray Nicolls and Gunn & Moore make their bats in the UK out of the major brands, the rest import because it is cheaper, not because the bats are better. If you want to hit the ball as well as possible then a hand pressed bat shaped and finished by hand is the only way to go. Remember that a soft bat will hit the ball further but will not last as long. Careful knocking is vital to release the full potential of a bat so do not skip or reduce it.
There are some bargins to be had but most good bats are sold a bit cheaper than the best internet prices rather than half price or less so beware of very low prices.are sold on eBay. I would stick to UK handmade bats rather than random here today gone tomorrow import brands. You want a bat to see you right for at season at the very least and your brand to provide you with service, repairs and more and you will not get this with a bloke buying blank Indian bats and adding stickers in his bedroom. I question sellers with big claims as much as possible, the last one claimed his Puma copy was hand made by the bat maker at Puma but he had ran out of the correct stickers, when asked if I could take his name to verify the story he said he did not have enough time to mess around with me, all the proof I needed to see he was lying.
A few of the brands that are not faked and offer great value for money on eBay if you are lucky enough to find one,
Newbery, Salix, Laver, Hell4Leather, Redback, BlackCatCricket, M&H and rarest of all SAF.Take your time looking, watch many bats and get a feel of the price they go for, ask the seller questions and don't be afraid to go back and ask more if you need more information. Stay away from poor photo's and avoid little information. Take note of good feedback but be aware that buyers who are not good eBayers can leave bad feedback unfairly, feedback is there for your benefit, take your time to read it. Enjoy your search and hopefully you will find the bat you want at a price to make you smile, good luck.