Srinagar: When Junaid Siddique of United Arab Emirates (UAE) hit the biggest six of 109 meters in last year’s T20 World Cup in Australia, it was a moment of celebration for the Cricket Bat Manufacturing Industry in the far off Kashmir Valley.
After all, Siddique was playing with a world class bat made in South Kashmir where the industry has lately been striving to expand exports.
The manufacturers are also optimistic about more orders due to the increasing Cricket Leagues and the ODI World Cup to be held in the country later this year.
“Our Cricket bats are better and pocket friendly… Our bats are known for quality and durability,” says Fazul Kabir, owner of Gr8 Sports and spokesperson of Cricket Bats Manufacturing Association of Kashmir.
It was a bat made by Gr8 Sports with which Junaid Siddique hit the longest six against Sri Lanka.
“We are able to produce the best cricket bat of the world which we proved in the ICC T20 World Cup (last year),” Kabir proudly told UNI.
After the magnificent six hit by Siddique, the whole world came to know that Kashmir offers such class of Cricket bats.
Kabir said his company is supplying bats to England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and UAE.
Kashmir’s Cricket Bat Industry, which was making losses till recently, has been growing lately with several international cricketers ordering and using the bats manufactured in the valley.
“The bats from Kashmir have been approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC),” Kabir said.
In Kashmir, the hub of the willow bat manufacturing industry is Bijbehara – the hometown of Indian cricketer Parvez Rasool.
There are over 400 bat manufacturing units in south Kashmir, many of them located along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, including in residential houses like in a cottage industry.
The cricket bat industry has an estimated turnover of Rs 300 crore and provides livelihood to over 1,50,000 people directly and indirectly.
About a decade back, nearly 3 lakh bats were manufactured but the production has now gone up to 30 lakh annually.
“Over the last 100 years of cricket bat history, we used to supply willow to Jallandar (Punjab) and Meerut (Uttar Pradesh) where bats would be made of the wood and exported. But in the last few years, we are exporting on our own,” said Kabir.
“We are exporting bats to the world leagues and now our hopes are pinned on the ODI World Cup (slated for October this year). We are sure our willow will be in great demand,” he added.
However, there is a worry for the industry.
The manufacturers fear the shortage of willow 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.