THE SURGERY ROOM: The ‘Sunraysia Bat Doctor’ Glenn Thompson has been extending the life of cricket bats, while also bringing new ones into the world. Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By MITCH RODD
GLENN Thompson is not a medical professional, but is still a doctor of the highest order.
The 42-year-old cricket fanatic has assumed the moniker of the ‘Sunraysia Bat Doctor’, maintaining, repairing and customising the ultimate weapon for cricketers Australia-wide.
Like many Aussie youngsters, Glenn had an obsession with the English Willow growing up, as did his friend Matthew McCleary.
Matt eventually moved to Adelaide where he set up shop as the ‘Adelaide Bat Doctor’.
While Glenn, who’s day job is as manager of education assurance at SuniTAFE, had always tinkered with his own bats, it wasn’t until 18 months ago that he decided to become a work experience student again and learn the craft from his old mate in South Australia.
Since putting his processes in place, Glenn has ‘operated’ on 75 bats, and delivered 25 newbies into the world.
“My only regret is that I didn’t take it upon myself to learn sooner,” Glenn said. “I’ve always loved cricket bats. I love the smell of linseed oil, to the actual willow itself… it’s everything about it. If I see one I’m automatically drawn to it and want to pick it up.”
Glenn has played for the Coomealla-Wentworth Cricket Club since age 11, and has four Second Division premierships to his name.
The ‘Sunraysia Bat Doctor’ uses old-fashioned hand tools to help get the willow into its best condition. While a stethoscope isn’t one of them, his arsenal consists of pull shaves, draw knifes and spoke shaves.
The obsession has become a labour of love, but initial thoughts of making changes to a batsman’s best friend was about saving money on repairs.
“I regularly go into cricket stores and pick up bats,” Glenn said. “I last saw some top of the range bats retail for $1500. It’s a lot of money.
“It’s too expensive to try and rotate them as much as you can. That’s where I started to think that I could repair my own bat and make sure I maximised its life before upgrading.
“After spending time with Matt I started to make my own too.”
Glenn spent time as the ‘emergency response unit’ at last year’s Willowfest Cricket Carnival, helping to repair bats for locals or visitors that were in need.
The response from that point was huge, with orders for repairs and new sticks being received from Wagga Wagga, the NSW coast and Melbourne.
“Matt helped me make my own bat and teach me the craft,” Glenn said. “You source your clefts, whether it’s English Willow from Australia or England, and create the new blade from there. That takes about four to five hours.
“You can customise bats for individuals too. Some want profiles of middle to low centre to medium-high, depending on the wickets they play on.
“I’ve sold a few bats in Melbourne for hard wickets so they want a higher centre, where traditionally Sunraysia use turf pitches and medium to low middles work best.”
As well as the weapons themselves, Glenn has also created his own bat wax from a mixture of beeswax, turpentine and linseed oil.
While the winter sports season is still yet to conclude, cricket tragics are already in training for the new season.
That means plenty of patients in the waiting room for ‘Dr’ Thompson.
“Once it gets into the cricket season it does get fairly busy, but it’s all part and parcel of it,” he said. “I’ve put out calls to start thinking about your cricket bats, and in the next month or so they’ll start coming through.”
Find the Sunraysia Bat Doctor Facebook page for more information.
THE DOCTOR ON COMMON BAT ISSUES
“As wood is a natural product, over time it will begin to wear out. Handles breaking is a common issue but a relatively easy fix.”
“Certain brands have a greater tendency to crack or break around there. The shoulders and the toe are the thinnest points of a cricket bat, making them the weakest points.”
“Obviously the toe of the bat will get some wear and tear. A lot of times the toe of the bat will chip and break away but can be fixed.”
GENERAL FACE MAINTENANCE
“General face damage and cracks along the edges are quite common.
“It doesn’t take much to repair and return to look brand new, just having a new protective sheet on the front makes a lot of difference.
“Either over-oiling or under oiling is a common mistake too. While it needs to be done to help maintain the wood, you don’t want to overdo it.”
“This is more about aesthetics. I’ve seen a lot of dents that people want removed. Avoiding them is as easy as keeping it in a cover and away from spikes and helmets that may leave marks.”
“A cricket bat is the most expensive piece of equipment in your cricket bag, but more often than not you spend the least amount of time maintaining it. It’s like servicing your car – to keep it running well you need to regularly service and maintain it.”