Cricket-Brazil’s response to the cricket bat shortage? Do theirs!
POCOS DE CALDAS, Brazil (Reuters) – When Brazil’s rapidly growing cricket program threatened to run out of bats, the solution was both easier and harder than anyone imagined: create your own .
Matt Featherstone, the former English amateur cricketer who is now president of Cricket Brazil, approached carpenter Luiz Roberto Francisco with a traditional English willow bat and asked if he had the wood or the expertise to do something similar.
Francisco was used to making chairs and cabinets out of MDF and was at first shocked.
“I almost gave up a lot of times, it’s really complicated,” he said. “We need time, a lot of patience, there are a lot of obstacles, it’s the handle, the cut, the wood, the machining. It’s not a coin that you put in the lathe and turn it, and then it’s over.
“I thought it wasn’t for me, but a few days later I would be back. It kept me awake at night but that’s how we learn, right? You lose sleep looking for solutions, but you know there is a way to the answer and you have to find it.
The answers are now in the hands of young cricketers from Pocos de Caldas, a small town in central Brazil that is home to Brazilian cricket.
Francisco turned his workshop into a bat factory, making bats from pine, cedar, eucalyptus and other woods. So far, it has produced 80 and intends to increase its production after the pandemic.
Pocos de Caldas has more than 5,000 young people learning cricket in the city’s 50 schools, playing mainly in the T10 and T20 formats.
Since cricketer missionary Featherstone moved here 21 years ago, he has convinced the mayor to build two training centers with nets and bowling machines where young children can learn.
The sport has grown tremendously in recent years – especially among women – and Brazil’s women’s teams have won four of the last five South American championships.
In the past, generous donations of bats, pads and balls recycled from professional play and sent by Lord’s Taverners, a leading cricket charity in the UK, have helped keep the Brazilians supplied.
But with more and more young people getting to know Yorkers, squarewalks and silly mid-offs – not to mention a pandemic that put an end to transatlantic travel – a longer-term solution was needed.
“It was good to bring 15, 20 or 30 bats to Brazil for a limited number of people playing cricket,” Featherstone told Reuters.
“Today, we have more than 5,000 young people in the development program with the idea, from the start of COVID, to increase to 33,000. It will be impossible to bring bats or equipment for abroad, so we have to get it here. So why not start our own cricket bat factory?
Imported Willow Bats will always be used by top players, but kids and youth teams will increasingly use Francisco’s Bats to hone their skills, one of which has come to be known as of “Brazilian Shooting,” an innovative initiative that involves a 270- degree pivot to respond to a leg-side delivery that has become a Brazilian specialty.
Research, however, is underway for a wood that will rival or even surpass the English willow and Featherstone is optimistic they will find a sustainable option in Brazil, a nation with more tree species than anywhere else on the planet.
“They’ve been using the same wood for these bats for 187 years,” he says. “It is not possible that there is nothing else elsewhere. Brazil has never played cricket, so no one has ever watched. I think we’ll find something as good as English Willow.
Reporting by Andrew Downie; Edited by Christian Radnedge