Srinagar, When United Arab Emirates cricketer Junaid Sidiqi hit the biggest six of the T-20 world cup in Australia last year, it brought a moment of pride for Kashmir’s famed cricket bat industry.
Sidiqi, who hit the ball 109 meters away against Sri Lanka, was playing with a Kashmir willow bat.
“We were able to produce the best cricket bat of the world which we proved in the T-20 ICC world cup. Junaid Sidiqi of UAE hit the biggest six of the T-20 with our bat,” the spokesperson for Cricket Bats Manufacturing Association of Kashmir, Fawzul Kabir told UNI.
He said after this six the whole world came to know that they have an alternative from Kashmir which can compete with English willow.
“Our bat is better and pocket friendly,” he said.
Kabir, who also owns Gr8 Sports, a south Kashmir-based cricket bat manufacturing company, said that they are now supplying bats to England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and UAE.
Kashmir’s bat industry, which till recently was a loss making, has been growing with several international cricketers playing with bats manufactured in the valley.
“The bats from Kashmir have been approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC). Our bats are known for their quality and durability,” Kabir said.
In Kashmir, the willow bat manufacturing industry has its hub in Bijbehara- the home town of Indian cricketer Parvez Rasool. There are other villages housed on the both sides of Srinagar Jammu highway which have bat manufacturing units. There are over 400 bat manufacturing units in south Kashmir.
The cricket bat industry has an estimated turnover of Rs 300 crore and provides livelihood to over 1,50,000 people directly and indirectly.
A decade before nearly 3 lakh bats were manufactured and now 30 lakh bats are made every year.
“ For the last 100 years of cricket bat history, we used to supply willows to Jalandhar (Punjab) and Meerut (Uttar Pradesh) where they would manufacture bats and later export them. But in the last few years, we are exporting on our own,” he said.
The manufacturers are optimistic that cricket leagues and 2023-Cricket World cup will translate into more orders for cricket bats.
“We have been exporting bats to the world leagues and now our hopes are pinned on the World Cup and we are sure our willows will be in great demand,” Kabir said.
However, there is a worry for the industry.
Most of the manufacturers fear the shortage of willows could prove detrimental to the industry.
The scientists at one of the leading farm universities in India, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST-K) are aware about the shortage of willow trees.
The SKUAST has already provided willow saplings to the growers.
“Once propagated on scientific lines on a large scale, it will end the willow shortage for cricket based industry,” said a scientist at the SKUAST.