The Kashmir Willow bats have finally arrived in the international cricketing world. For the first time in the last 75 years, two international cricket players used the Kashmir willow bats in the T-20 world cup, which was held in Dubai.
This development has changed the fate of Kashmir’s Willow bat industry.
The demand for Kashmir Willow bats has increased and orders are pouring in from across the World. Bat importers from around 12 cricket playing nations have placed orders with several bat factories in Kashmir.
The Kashmir bat industry was established in the year 1947 after India got its independence. Since then, millions of bats were made in the valley, but none were used by international cricket players.
”These players using the Kashmir willow bats on the biggest and best platform like the world cup is important for us. There couldn’t have been a better stage than the world cup to present our product and our brand in the international market. This is the biggest achievement for the Kashmir cricket bat manufacture association. I had worked a lot since 2014 and visited all cricket playing nations and told the players we have an alternative to English willow which is cheaper. They did not go for it in the beginning, but after the Kashmir Willow bat was used in the world cup, the same people approached us and have given orders for these bats,” said Fuwzal Kabir, Willow bat factory owner, Anantnag.
The orders for Kashmir willow bats are pouring from multiple countries. The factory owners say they are working day and night to manufacture as many bats as possible. The demand is more than what is being produced in the Kashmir market.
”Around 11-12 countries have given us orders which includes New Zealand, South Africa, UAE, Qatar, Denmark, New Zealand, Scotland and more. This is a new morning for all of us. For the last 75 years we have been manufacturing cricket bats here and we have more than 400 bat factories. And none of us was able to send our product to the international market. We are the only ones who can produce these bats at such a rate which is much less than what English willow costs,” said Fuwzal.
The government of India recently gave Kashmir bat industry GI Tagging. It put the industry on the international market with quality control and made a brand out of it.
The bat factory owners have approached the government of Jammu and Kashmir saying the willows are being cut at a fast pace which can eventually turn into an issue for the bat factory owners and employees. They have asked the government for the re-plantation of the willow trees across the valley, especially in south Kashmir.
”The GI tagging will help, it will help people to know that it comes from Kashmir. We will get recognition and it will send across the message that the bat can be used on any platform. The trees are being cut at a fast rate, and no one is going for replantation of the trees. The government has to help us with the replantation otherwise we won’t have willow trees available in the next 5-7 years. We have approached the Governor regarding the issue, and they assured us of a replantation drive. Otherwise, this will render all of us jobless in future,” said Fuwzal.
To compete in the international market, the bat factory owners have hired experts from different parts of the country to make bats.
Those experts who have made bats for cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and Virendra Sehwag are in Kashmir and helping make the best Kashmir willow bats.
”Kashmir willow is a good quality wood; we need someone to make the best of it. We must sift through it for the best quality. and for that What you require is a maker,” said Ravi Tiger, a bat making expert.
For further promotions of their brands, the factory owners are approaching Indian cricket team players asking them to promote and use Kashmir Willow bats. They are hopeful that Indian cricketers will be using these bats in future.