India’s Ravindra Jadeja fends away a bouncer with his Sareen Sports bat. Picture: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft
India’s Ravindra Jadeja fends away a bouncer with his Sareen Sports bat. Picture: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft

The births and deaths of cricket bat brands

India's Test success could be behind Aussie cricket fans of the seventies, eighties and even the nineties confusing one of the sub-continent's major bat sponsors with legendary UK bat producer Stuart Surridge.

The Stuart Surridge brand, identified by the initials SS, was one of the most promoted bats in Australia during the seventies and eighties along with SP, Duncan Fearnley and Gray-Nicholls.

Former English cricket captain Tony Greig even got down to his jock strap to promote not just the bat, but a range of protective equipment SP (St Peter) offered.

Tony Greig promotes the SP bat – and other protective gear – in 1979.
Tony Greig promotes the SP bat – and other protective gear – in 1979.

SS was the weapon of choice of West Indian master blaster Viv Richards who used the unconventional Jumbo, with its triangle profile and high rear cutaway, with devastating effect against Australian bowlers.

England skipper Graham Gooch also wielded an SS with great effect while later Aussie skipper Mark Taylor and former ODI all-rounder Simon O'Donnell were among the locals who endorsed the brand.

 

Mark Taylor wields a Stuart Surridge bat at the Gabba in 1994. Picture: Anthony Weate
Mark Taylor wields a Stuart Surridge bat at the Gabba in 1994. Picture: Anthony Weate

 

However, the SS on the bats of the Indian players, stylised differently to Stuart Surridge, is that of Sareen Sports which started in 1969.

It has no affiliation with Stuart Surridge which was founded by the Surridge family in 1867. The UK brand was purchased by Dunlop-Slazenger in the early nineties.

Greg Chappell Cricket Centre manager Brad Trevena said many older players who have walked through their doors at Albion over the summer have confused the two brands.

However, the younger generation have had a 'reverse swing' on the branding and think the Stuart Sturridge bats are connected to the Indian brand.

India’s Ravindra Jadeja fends away a bouncer with his Sareen Sports bat. Picture: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft
India’s Ravindra Jadeja fends away a bouncer with his Sareen Sports bat. Picture: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft

"There is come confusion between the SS brands with both the older and younger generation," Trevena said.

"I find the older generation picking up an Indian made SS and think its Stuart Surridge."

Stuart Surridge bats are still in production with the SS Jumbo marketed as a retro bat.

However, SS no longer has the high profile it had several decades ago in Australia, similar to another booming bat maker of that era Duncan Fearnley.

 

Brad Tevena from the Greg Chappell Cricket Centre with the Stuart Surridge and Sareen Sports bats.
Brad Tevena from the Greg Chappell Cricket Centre with the Stuart Surridge and Sareen Sports bats.

 

The DF brand had Aussie cricket legend Allan Border and Greg Matthews, among the high profile locals on its books while they were once a regular staple in club cricket kits.

Duncan Fearnley brand manager Paul Fearnley told The Courier-Mail that they are still in production but have scaled back their operation.

They now concentrate on grassroots cricket and their bats can be bought online from their Worcester workshop.

He said he was uncertain who the last Australian they had on their books before taking a step back from the international sponsorship.

 

Former Australian Test captain Allan Border signs 200 special edition Duncan Fearnley cricket bats in 1993.
Former Australian Test captain Allan Border signs 200 special edition Duncan Fearnley cricket bats in 1993.

 

"We no longer sponsor professional players, our ethos is to support grassroots cricket, coaches and officials. Unfortunately as a small family business we are unable to compete with the large multi-national sports brands such as Adidas and New Balance who spend more than they sell in cricket," Fearnley said.

"I couldn't be sure of the last player, but I suppose the last big names were Allan Border, Brendon Julian, Michael Slater (whilst he was in the Academy) and Greg Matthews."

Another prominent bat maker of the seventies and eighties that still has a presence on the name grounds is Gunn & Moore, or GM.

Australian batsman Travis Head faced-up against India with a GM in hand while a few decades ago it was Shane Warne, with a hipster doofus haircut, spruiking the English bat maker in a cricket academy promotion.

 

Shane Warne promoting GM cricket bats as an up and comer.
Shane Warne promoting GM cricket bats as an up and comer.

 

Trevena said bat sponsorship certainly helped New Balance establish itself in the market a few years ago on the back of the success of Steve Smith.

He said bat sponsorship definitely attracted sales but it was not the sole reason behind bat sales.

"Virat Kohli has spearheaded MRF and when he is form those bats sell well although for kids it can come down to who is using it, the colour of the sticker and what looks good," he said.

"New Balance are fairly new on the scene and the popularity of Steve Smith and the international batsmen on their books, there has been an influence on kids buying their bats."

"Players over 40 are looking for Gray-Nichols, Gunn & Moore and even County which is owned by Gray-Nichols, because they know and trust those brands."

 

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