WHEN Steve Waugh held his clean skin bat
aloft after scoring a century at Edgbaston, it was a blade made by
Fremantle podshaver Paul Bradbury.
Ricky Ponting, who uses Bradbury willow with different
livery, is hoping to do likewise at Trent Bridge.
Two other Australian batsmen have recently road tested
the bats and are now considering following suit.
In the superstitious world of cricket equipment, where
Waugh has carried the same ragged red hanky in his pocket for a decade,
there should be no surprise that players are so critically interested in
the tools of their trade.
For all the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of
dollars they receive for endorsing certain bats, many players will use a
rival product if it feels better and will bring them a few more runs.
It is an open secret in cricket circles, with players
happy because they are both being paid handsomely and using the bats they
want. Manufacturers are content at the massive exposure that comes from
their logos being shown on television, and the bat maker, though unable
to make an impact on the mass market, is satisfied that the world's best
players want his work.
"If a player comes to me and wants to buy one of
my bats, I will sell it to him" Bradbury shrugged. "What they do
with it is their business".
Bradbury, who is still playing WACA grade cricket with
Fremantle, has just returned to the place where his bat - making, or
podshaving, apprenticeship started 11years ago under
Julian Millichamp, another batmaker who
stamp and log every bat made but this was a
special request and we made it up for him".
"Goodness knows what he wanted to do with it -
stuff it in a vat of some sort of goo I suppose".
Most sales are strictly orthodox, with Test or State
players being good value because they often buy several bats at a time.
Bradbury also has another iron in the fire and may
stand to benefit from changes to International Cricket Council bat
Unlike his teammates, Steve Waugh's bare bat indicates
he does not have a bat contract as he waits to see if the rules are
relaxed to allow non - manufacturers to advertise.
Brian Lara has already used a gambling company's logo
on his bat while Sachin Tendulkar, who has a lucrative sponsorship with
the Madras Rubber Factory, can use bats with their emblem because they set
up a bat making arm simply to meet the ICC rules.
Waugh knows that his potential market value is enormous
and is prepared to forego a series without a sponsor in a bid to sign a
bigger deal in the future.
If a major company is then allowed to advertise on
Waugh's, or other players', bats, it may be required to manufacture a
certain number of bats - opening the door for the likes of Bradbury to
provide the product.
went the opposite way by moving
from Somerset to Perth. Bradbury and his wife Sally, who also make bats, have
moved into the old barn on a farm at East Lydeard, just outside Taunton,
where they spend half the year working to supply the English market.
Bradbury is also playing league cricket at Exeter in
Devon while the couple's three children are becoming accustomed to the jet
The Australian summer is spent at home in Fremantle where hundreds of more
bats are turned out from the pods of willow he selects in England.
Using ancient techniques - old cattle shinbones are
used to provide the final
polish to the face of the bats - he turns rough
chunks of wood into gleaming works of art.
There is something aesthetically pleasing to the eye
and hand about a pristine bat, its potential for cracking cover drives and
meaty pulls still unrealised but its balance, or pick-up, promising plenty
Mind you, Bradbury has had one unusual request. That was from young
British artist Damien Hirst, famous for his installations of animals in
formaldehyde, who walked into the old barn and asked for a roughly hewn
"He wanted an unfinished bat stamped 666,"
Bradbury said. "We