Kashmiri willow bat industry: Kashmiri willow bat, which hit the longest six in T20 World Cup, is set to shut down the cricket kit industry

Srinagar: Kashmir’s 102-year-old cricket bat-making industry has raised its prices over the years to compete with the famous ‘English Willow’ (a special type of wood used to make bats). However, manufacturers fear that the shortage of wood (willow) will force them to shut down the Rs 300-crore business that provides livelihood to more than 1 lakh people.

“We have been manufacturing cricket bats for the last 102 years,” said Fawazul Kabir, spokesperson, Kashmir Cricket Bat Manufacturers Association. Our bats are of the best quality and approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC). There is no shortage in terms of quality. We are equal if not better than English Willow (the manufacturers that use it). This is evident from the fact that Kashmir Willow hit the longest six with the bat in the recent ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

UAE’s Junaid Siddiqui hit the longest six in the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup against Sri Lanka using a bat manufactured by Anantnag-based GR8 Sports. However, the future of around 400 bat manufacturing units is uncertain as they fear that their factories will be shut down within five years due to shortage of timber. Pointing to afforestation campaigns in Canada and Pakistan, Kabir said, “Willow production is declining rapidly and we fear it will come to an end in the next five years.” We urge the government to take up the willow plantation drive to ensure continuous supply.

He said that not only in Jammu and Kashmir, but also in Jalandhar in Punjab and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, more than one lakh people depend on this business for their livelihood. He said that in such a situation where an industry is on the verge of collapse, the government should act on a war footing. Kabir said the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology had given him 1,500 willow seedlings to grow last year, but each unit needs to supply 15,000 willows annually.

The annual turnover of the bat industry was over Rs 300 crores. Kabir suggested that the government should consider allowing the plantation of wetlands and riverbanks where willow trees used to grow. GR8 Sports Production Manager Mohammad Niaz said the government has taken steps to plant willow saplings but it is not enough to meet the needs of the industry.

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