Cricketing term for body protection equipment. Originally referred just to the leg padding worn by batsman, the word now covers most items worn. The types of body protection available to a batsman are as follows; pads, spikes, thigh guard, box, gloves, arm guard, chest guard and helmet.
Pads are secured to the batsman's leg by three straps at the back, at ankle level, mid-calf, and lower knee. The leg pad only protects the lower legs. First just canvas stetched over cane or willow, now pads come padded (!), and coated in PVC or finished leather, and strengthened to withstand the efforts of today's bowling. If a batsman is hit on the pads by the ball, he could be out LBW, depending on the circumstances. The leading pad i.e. the left pad for right handed batsmen and vice versa has a padded upper flap as it has more exposure to balls than the back pad. Pads are crucial and basic equipment for safe play, worn by every bat-wielding player.
Cricket boots are called spikes, and they differ from standard trainers in many ways. Most obviously, they have spiked soles for better grip on the lush grass of the field. They often have high ankles to give extra support, like basketball shoes. Most importantly for batsmen, however, is the reinforced toe of a cricket shoe. This is because batsmen seek to put their leading foot to the pitch of the ball such that when they play it they don't scoop it into the air, but play it along the ground. Furthermore, bowlers aim to hit batsmen on the feet when bowling a yorker, as a batsman with injured feet is less mobile. Spikes can be very expensive, if you want, but functional leather shoes with spikes in will set you back about £30.
Thigh pads are contructed of a sheet of thickish plastic and protective foam, fastened to the leading thigh by two straps, one around the waist and one around the upper knee. The primary function of the thigh pad is to stop the batsman getting a dead leg when struck by a ball. This is as ubiquitous as pads and gloves, but acquired later when players are physically big enough for the pace and bounce to make this a necessity.
Abdominal guard (coll. box)
The box is so essential that you should never play cricket without one, and a jock strap to hold it in place. Getting hit in the balls by a ball could easily mean you won't have children. If you have the misfortune to get hit there anyway it still hurts like hell, but no permanent damage is done. Made of a single peice of moulded plastic, and with leather padding round the edges.
Gloves are as essential as boxes and pads. Protecting your fingers is of utmost importance. Gloves are leather-soled, articulated for ease of movement around the bat, very strongly stiched, and very well padded, with about half an inch between your fingers and the outside world. Bottom hand gloves, right for right-handed batsmen etc, have thumb padding and a plastic cap for the tip of your thumb too, as it's very exposed. The upper hand's thumb is tucked safely around the back. Gloves are fastened around the wrist with wide, strong velcro. The soles have aeration holes so your hands don't get too sweaty, or you can wear inners to save your nice expensive gloves. These too are very important, and every batsman sports them regardless of age, ability, or level. You can spend what you like on gloves; they can even be tailor made for you.
If you have an arm guard, it's a near certainty that you own all the above pieces of equipment. Essentially foam/plastic padding like a thigh pad, fastened along the leading forearm at wrist and elbow to prevent serious bruising and breakages from balls that leap up at you. Many International players don't use these- they're only really for the specialist batsmen who're expecting to face bowling at their chest height, i.e. fast bowlers. If you've got one of these, chances are you absolutely need it.
Similarly, if you own a chest guard, you are going to be tackling with bowlers who are throwing the bowl down at 75 mph+ on a regular basis. If you are in this situation without a chest guard, you're looking at cracked ribs for sure. The fastest bowler in the world currently is Shoaib Aktar, recently clocked at 97.5 mph. Hence the need for padding. A chest guard is just a lot of foam padding strapped on to your chest with more velcro to hold it in place. People with chest guards do battle with the mightiest. Respect.
The helmet becomes necessary about a season after the thigh pad, when people are big enough to bounce the ball up to head level. They are now compulsory in schoolboy cricket from 16 up, although at 18 pupils may choose not to wear one. The cheapest you’ll get hold of a helmet for is about £30, and many serious sixth-form batsmen will have their own. It’s not a problem if you don’t have one, because they are very lendable. Helmets have a hard shell covering the skull with a small sun visor. The lower face is protected by a metal grille. The worst things about helmets are the massively reduced visibility, as you lose all your peripheral vision, and the sweat that builds up on the head band when you’re batting. Either it’ll dribble down your face or be unpleasantly wet on the forehead of whoever you lend it to afterwards. Helmets are worn by keepers when standing up to the wicket, for a spinner, for example, by close slips and gullies or by other close fielders – silly point, silly mid on/off, silly leg – when standing around the bat hoping for a catch. Obscure rule: if the batsman hits a discarded helmet- in practice only ever the wicket keeper’s, about 10 yards behind him- he gets five runs.
There, then, is a brief introduction to types of padding, an essential aspect of the game. Companies making pads are ten a penny, but best known/most popular are equipment giants Gray Nicolls, Duncan Fearnley, and specialists Woodford.
Many thanks to Teiresias for his help