Century-Old Cricket Bat Industry In Kashmir Looking At An Uncertain Future Due To Willow Cleft Shortage

Willow is the only type of wood used to make cricket bats and it is of two kinds – English Willow and Kashmir Willow.

For a long time, cricketers have used both willows worldwide, though there is a general consensus that the English one is ‘better’.


Still, cricket bat manufacturing is a major industry in Kashmir and provides livelihood to over 100,000 people.

According to industry data, bat manufacturers in the valley produce over thirty lakh bats annually.

Existential crisis for cricket bat industry

But the 102-year-old cricket bat industry in Kashmir is now facing a new challenge.


According to PTI, bat-makers are concerned that a shortage of clefts might force the closure of the industry.

“We have been manufacturing cricket bats for the past 102 years. The quality of our bats is good and approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC). So quality-wise, we are not lacking. We are at par with (manufacturers that use) English willow, if not better,” Fawzul Kabir, spokesperson for Cricket Bats Manufacturing Association of Kashmir, told PTI.

Not enough willows to make bats

Some 400-odd bat manufacturing units are staring at an uncertain future as they fear a shortage of willow clefts might force their factories to close within five years.


“Willow produce is dwindling fast and we fear that it might become extinct within the next five years. We have been requesting the government to go for a willow plantation drive to ensure a sustainable supply,” Kabir said. 

He said more than a lakh people, not only from Jammu and Kashmir but from Jalandhar in Punjab and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, rely on the industry for their livelihoods.

“In a scenario where an industry is on the verge of collapse, the government needs to work on a war footing,” he said.

Kabir said while the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology provided them with 1,500 willow saplings last year for replacement, each unit needs a supply of around 15,000 clefts a year.


Plant more willow trees to meet the demand 

“As cricket is growing fast, the demand for bats will also increase. We had a dozen countries playing cricket two decades ago. Today, that number has gone up to around 160.”

“Ten years ago, 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh bats were manufactured in Kashmir. These days, 30 lakh bats are made every year,” he said, adding that the industry’s annual turnover is over Rs 300 crore.”

Kabir suggested that the government should consider allowing sapling plantations in the wetlands and on the riverbanks where willow trees used to be grown earlier.

“If willow trees are planted in these places again, the bat industry can survive,” he said.


Mohammad Niyaz, the Production Manager of GR8 Sports, an Anantnag-based manufacturer whose bat made its presence felt in the ICC Twenty 20 Men’s Cricket World Cup in Dubai, said the demand will only increase in the coming days.

“More and more cricket leagues are coming up around the world and the demand for bats is only going to increase,” he said.

No shortage of willow trees in Kashmir

According to an Industries and Commerce department official, there was no dearth of willow in Kashmir, and the main issue facing the units was a lack of modern seasoning technology and smuggling of clefts to factories outside Kashmir.

“In Kashmir, seasoning of clefts is still done in the traditional way and it can take anywhere between six months to a year. It blocks precious capital of the unit holder and puts strain on his financial situation. This has, in some cases, led to the closure of a unit,” the official told PTI on the condition of anonymity.

The official said a proposal to set up a seasoning plant was approved a few years ago but was shelved due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

“A new proposal to set up an electric or solar plant that will reduce the seasoning time to just 15 days is under consideration of senior officials,” he added.

(With PTI inputs)

For more on news and current affairs from around the world, please visit Indiatimes News.

Click Here: Gold Coast Suns Guernsey