Can the willow be replaced by bamboo to manufacture cricket bats? If a University of Cambridge study is to be believed, it can and it should for “economic sustainability” and a “larger sweet spot.”Traditional cricket bats are carved out of English or Kashmir willow but bamboo presents a cheaper option, according to a study by Darshil Shah and Ben Tinkler-Davies from the University of Cambridge.

“The sweet spot on a bamboo bat makes it much easier to hit a four off a Yorker for starters, but it’s exciting for all kinds of strokes,” Shah was quoted as saying by ‘The Times’.

According to the Guardian newspaper, “there are problems with the supply of English willow. It takes about 15 years before a tree can be harvested, after which new trees must be planted. Between 15 per cent and 30 per cent of the wood is also wasted during bat production.”

Shah, believes that bamboo is “cheap, plentiful, fast growing and sustainable material. Shoots are able to grow from previous stumps, and maturity is reached after seven years. “It is also very prevalent in countries that are taking up cricket such as China, Japan, South America as well,” he said.

In their published article in the journal of ‘Sports Engineering and Technology’, the duo reveals that their prototype bat blade was made from strips of bamboo shoots stuck together with a resin adhesive and formed into layers. According to the researchers, they found that the bat was “stiffer, harder and stronger than those made of willow, although more brittle. It also had a similar vibration performance, meaning it sounds similar when striking a ball.”

“It is heavier than a willow bat, and we are looking to optimise that,” said Shah. The bamboo bat is supposed to have a larger “sweet spot, closer to the toe of the bat.” While the idea of bamboo bats could be a novel one for starters, whether it could be used in the international market is still not clear as ICC’s regulations allow only bats made out of wood.

And there was a counter-view as well on whether such a move is actually plausible. Prof Mark Miodownik, an engineer and materials scientist and director of the Institute of Making at University College London, said: “…just because bamboo is more plentiful than willow does not mean bats made from it would be more sustainable.

“The whole life cycle of production, including the manufacture of the laminating resins and their disposal, needs to be considered. Do these resins biodegrade for instance? If not, this could be LBW for this new material.”