Making a debut: Kashmir willow bat to boom in Cricket World Cup 2023

Making a debut: Kashmir willow bat to boom in Cricket World Cup 2023

Jammu and Kashmir is eagerly waiting for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup not just because of sports aficionados but because a part of the Himalayan valley is debuting in the game – Kashmir willow.

Cricketers from six-nations, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, West Indies and Sri Lanka, are expected to play with Kashmir willow instead of English willow in the World Cup matches. (Waseem Andrabi /HT)

Kashmir bat producers are ecstatic as Kashmir willow will debut in the 50 hour cricket world cup as India hosts the championship later in October-November this year. Cricketers from six-nations, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, West Indies and Sri Lanka, are expected to play the ball with Kashmir willow instead of English willow in the world cup matches, which is a major boost for “make in India” and “make in J&K.”

“Kashmir willow has arrived. It is for the first time in the 50 over cricket world cup that some international players will pick bats made of Kashmir willow. Earlier it was just English willow,” said Fayaz Ahmad Dar, president of cricket bat manufacturing association of Kashmir.

He said the Kashmir bat would get exported earlier as well but never was picked up by international players.

“For the past couple of years, the Kashmir willow has occasionally made its presence felt in T20 world cups. Earlier, we also supplied bats for IPL,” he added.

Kashmir has been producing bats for over 100 years now but has hardly been marketed to international customers as Kashmir brand until now. Outside companies would take Kashmir bats without labels then tag brands on them on their own. Now Kashmiris are themselves producing, branding and marketing the Kashmir willow.

The endeavour has already borne fruits. In 2020, one of the players used Kashmir willow bat in T20 world cup, then in Australia in 2022.

One of the pioneers to brand and market Kashmir willow is south Kashmir’s Fawzan Kabeer, an MBA and the 31-year-old owner of GR8 sports in Sangam, Anantnag.

“A few players in the past two T20 world cups used Kashmir willow and now it will debut in 50 over world cup this year. Players from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, West Indies, UAE and Oman are going to play with our bats,” said Kabeer.

There are some 250-400 cricket-bat producing units in Kashmir valley mostly in south Kashmir but most of them made no share in the international cricket bat market until recently.

Kabeer, who is also pursuing PhD in strategic management from DC University Ireland, said Kashmir willow had no representation in the international bat market despite over 100 years of production here.

He said he intended to take Kashmir willow to the world to augment the local economy. “I worked on its promotion, development and technical advancement for the past 13 years and also got ICC approval. Last year one of our bats was able to hit the biggest six of the ICC T20 world cup in Australia. We proved to the world that there is an alternative to English willow in the form of Kashmir willow,” he added.

The bat producers said there is no difference between English willow and Kashmir willow, as the willow in Kashmir was introduced by the British in the early 19th century. Walter Roper Lawrence, settlement commissioner for Jammu and Kashmir between 1889–1894, brought the willow saplings to Kashmir whose weather was similar to that of England.

The bat produced in Kashmir is at par with English willow in quality and endurance but is pocket friendly.

Kabeer said the bat producing companies in India use “English willow” then tag them as “made in India.”

“In their case the money of raw material goes back to England even after 77 years of independence. On the other hand, this Kashmir product is 100 percent made in India with the main cleft coming from Kashmir, handle comes from Jalandhar or Andaman and Nicobar, sticker from Meerut and fibre from Kolkata,” he added.

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