As BJ Watling played another gritty knock down the order and then Colin de Grandhomme came out in the second innings in Christchurch's Boxing Day Test vs Sri Lanka to play a typically swashbuckling knock, you may have noticed something slightly different. Maybe you noticed it when Jeet Raval blunted the new-ball yet again, or maybe you picked up on these three changing from Kookaburra bats to SS/TON bats when they helped the Blackcaps grab a Test series win vs Pakistan in United Arab Emirates.
And so we enter into another chapter of the ultimate cricket nerd activity of spinning yarns about bat sponsorship and who's using what gear. It's a yarn that doesn't come around too often given the nature of sponsorship with many players using the same equipment for most of their careers and while I'm eager to relay these thoughts more frequently across the various Blackcaps squads, there is little change season to season.
Think of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor; Williamson has and will use Gray Nicolls bats fore his entire career aside from something dramatic, same goes for Taylor and GM. Even then, diving deeper can get niggly as some lads may merely whack stickers on a plank on their desired plank of wood.
The move of Raval, Watling and de Grandhomme to SS/TON is notable because it leaves Tom Latham as the lone Kookaburra batsman in the Test 1st 11. 'Batsman' is a key term here as sponsors obviously want the most bang for their buck and Kookaburra had both the Blackcaps Test openers on their books, while Watling's a key batting figure in the Test team and de Grandhomme is always likely to get into highlights packages. All those factors amount to tremendous visibility for Kookaburra and with Latham, Raval, Watling and de Grandhomme using their bats, they had a majority stake in the Blackcaps Test team.
Until SS/TON came along and probably (completely guessing here) offered their trio more money to use SS/TON gear than Kookaburra were. Maybe those three had a contract with Kookaburra and when their contract was up, their agents looked around for new deals and SS/TON came to the party - maybe Raval, Watling and de Grandhomme share an agent?
SS/TON have a large Asian presence and we've seen Sri Lankan batsman Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews showcase their talents in Aotearoa using SS blades. There doesn't appear to be much difference between SS and TON, as they come from the same sponsor although in Christchurch Raval and de Grandhomme used SS, while Watling used TON.
Latham holds it down for Kookaburra now, same as Taylor holding it down for GM in the Blackcaps Test 1st 11. Kookaburra and GM are joined by Gray Nicolls as the notable brands kiwis know, more 'western' than the likes of SS/TON, KG etc. It's pretty damn interesting that two brands who have such a presence in Aotearoa like Kookaburra and GM, only have one player in the Blackcaps using their bats. Many fringe players use Kookaburra and GM though, with Will Young a notable GM batsman and Jimmy Neesham averaging 62.87 @ 110.79sr in the Ford Trophy with his trusty Kookaburra.
Gray Nicolls are probably in the best position, starting with Williamson and now with Henry Nicholls churning out runs for fun, they have another strong ambassador. Of the big kiwi brands, Gray Nicolls not only have two batsmen while Kookaburra and GM have one each, they have two of the better run-scorers right now.
Another little thing to watch out for has been the rise of New Balance, well rise and minor fall. New Balance snapped up Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi for example, although neither is currently in the Test squad and are now left with the flamingo exploits of Trent Boult. New Balance has made a major play internationally into cricket and as they are known for their shoes, Boult will get plenty of value out of his New Balance kicks.
While Ajaz Patel uses MRF bats, the bowling funk sits in Tim Southee and Neil Wagner who use Adidas products. Yes, Adidas is still in the cricket market and you'd struggle to find a lad in your club team using Adidas bats let alone Test cricketers. This is however, a great deal for Southee and Wagner as they bowl in Adidas kicks and probably aren't overly fussed with what bats they use as long as they're getting paid to use them.
For those wondering, the shoe game is largely Asics, Adidas and New Balance. As I've said, Adidas and New Balance are in the bat game (I won't speculate too much but probably putting stickers on bats) and Asics stick to shoes. Hence you will see most of the Blackcaps who use Kookaburra, GM, Gray Nicolls or SS/TON wearing Asics shoes.
I'll pop back up with another debrief when the time is right, maybe after the white-ball summer to see who did what, using which gear. Until then, let me know if you enjoyed this yarn and if so, I'll keep them coming.
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Peace and love 27.