Over the years, Gray-Nicolls has been fortunate to work with legends of the game. Three of those legends – David Gower, Michael Atherton and Shivnarine Chanderpaul – span three generations of cricket – from the 70s, 90s and today.
During that time, many things have changed in cricket. But one thing has stayed the same – the craft that goes into a Gray-Nicolls cricket bat.
“I think one of the more interesting things to start with is the first time that you go down to the factory,” said Gower as we met at Wormsley. “So the first time to Robertsbridge, you see this cottage industry, which smells of all the right things and feels right. You see people putting all the right effort into making the bat. The first time you see the skilled craftsmanship and basically people have been there for about 3000 years. They must know what they are doing by now.”
Atherton is full of admiration for the bat makers. “Having been down to Robertsbridge and seen the bat makers at work - whatever industry you’re in - I always appreciate people who show real craftsmanship at what they do, whether it be as a player, a bat maker, musician, writer, whatever.”
And while the level of skill going in to bat making hasn’t changed, some of the output has. Bats have changed in size and performance, something not lost on Chanderpaul. “Well, me seeing it back then and seeing it now,” said the West Indian, “innovative would be the word. Because it changes over the years, and Gray-Nicolls has always been doing things to make the equipment better, which is where we are today.”
Innovation is great, but for Gower, it’s all about the middle of the bat. “If you happen to get a bat, if it happens to ping off the front of it, that’s absolutely fine,” said the former England captain. “Whether or not you put grooves in - one groove or four grooves or just add a bit on. Whatever it is that makes it work.”
For Atherton, the Gray-Nicolls & player relationship comes down to one thing and one thing only. “Good bats” he explains. “That’s what you’re there to do: score runs, so a good bat is the key to it all really.”