Kashmir Willow Cricket Bats Shine Ahead of ODI World Cup 2023
Jammu and Kashmir’s Iconic Willow Bats to Take Center Stage
As the cricket world eagerly awaits the 2023 Cricket World Cup, there’s a new star on the horizon – cricket bats made from the legendary Kashmir willow. These exceptional bats, known for their quality and durability, are set to make their official debut at the upcoming ODI World Cup, slated to begin on October 5 in India. This marks a historic moment for the cricketing world as the Kashmir willow bats are expected to be used by 17 international cricketers from various teams participating in the tournament.
The renowned GR8 Sports, a bat manufacturing company nestled in the scenic Sangam area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district, is the proud creator of these extraordinary cricket bats. The teams of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan have all chosen to wield these Kashmir willow bats during the prestigious tournament.
Kashmir willow bats have been gradually gaining recognition on the international stage. It all began with players from the UAE, West Indies, and Oman embracing these bats during the World Cup qualifiers held in Zimbabwe. These international players discovered what many already knew: Kashmir willow bats are a force to be reckoned with.
Fawzal Kabeer, the owner of GR8 Sports, shared his insights into the growing demand for these bats. It all started when international cricket players from Oman and the UAE opted for Kashmir willow bats during the T20 World Cups in the UAE and Australia in 2021 and 2022. Notably, UAE batter Junaid Siddiqui smashed the longest six of 109 meters during the ICC T20 World Cup 2022 against Sri Lanka in Australia, using one of these iconic bats.
GR8 Sports achieved another remarkable milestone when it became the first and only brand from Jammu and Kashmir to gain approval from the International Cricket Council (ICC). This recognition came after a decade-long endeavor, with Kabeer and his team diligently adhering to all ICC regulations. Kabeer, a 31-year-old MBA graduate from the Islamic University of Science and Technology Awantipora, Kashmir, has taken the bat-making tradition passed down by his late father, Abdul Kabir Dar, to new heights.
Kabeer expressed his excitement about the upcoming ODI World Cup and the opportunity to showcase their bats on the global stage. He remarked, “We hope our bats will break all the records. We wish the players using our bats can score as many runs and hit sixes and fours in every match.”
Over the past two years, more than 185,000 cricket bats crafted in Kashmir have been exported to cricket-playing countries worldwide. Kabeer aspires to see top-ranked players wielding Kashmir-made bats, further cementing the region’s reputation as a cricket bat manufacturing hub.
According to the Department of Industries and Commerce in Kashmir, there are approximately 400 cricket bat manufacturing units in the region, primarily located along the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. Among these, 220 units operate in Anantnag district, and 180 are in Pulwama district.
Inside the sawmills of Sangam, a small village known as India’s willow bat village, skilled craftsmen toil diligently to create these exceptional cricket bats. This village has been a major hub for manufacturing Kashmir willow bats since the early 1920s, joining the ranks of England and Pakistan as the world’s premier producers of handmade willow cricket bats.
The raw material for these bats, willow wood, is sourced from Anantnag, Baramulla, and Kupwara districts, where two to three-decades-old willow trees yield the highest quality clefts used in bat production.
Recognizing the surge in demand for Kashmiri cricket bats, the government has initiated the process of granting them a geographical indication (GI) tag. This designation recognizes the product’s origin and attributes its quality and reputation to its geographic location.
Kashmir’s cricket bat-making industry, which produces over 30 lakh bats annually, faced challenges in the past due to smuggling of willow clefts from the region. However, entrepreneurs like Kabeer have turned the tide by not only manufacturing these bats but also marketing them across various countries.
Kabeer proudly shared that Kashmir willow bats have been giving stiff competition to their English willow counterparts. The competitive edge largely lies in the pricing, as Kashmir willow bats are available at a fraction of the cost of international editions of English willow bats. While English willow bats can cost between Rs. 85,000 and Rs. 1.5 lakh, Kashmir willow bats are priced between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 15,000.
Kabeer emphasized the versatility of Kashmir willow, stating, “The bats made in Kashmir are as good as bats made in England. Our bats have been successfully tested in T20 format, and now they are set to shine in the ODI format, with the next goal being Test format.”
As the cricketing world gears up for the 2023 Cricket World Cup, all eyes are on the Kashmir willow cricket bats, poised to make a lasting impression in the ODI format. With a surge in demand and international recognition, these iconic bats from the Kashmir Valley are well on their way to etching their place in cricketing history.
Cricket enthusiasts from across India, from Odisha to Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, have shown a preference for Kashmiri cricket bats. The anticipation is building, and the fervor is palpable as the ODI World Cup approaches, with cricket lovers eagerly awaiting the performance of these exceptional Kashmir-made bats on the grand stage.
Firdous Ahmad Khan, spokesperson for the South Sports Goods Manufacturers Association, highlighted the surging demand for both seasoned and tennis cricket bats in recent times. He commended the efforts of young entrepreneurs who have breathed new life into the industry and acknowledged the positive publicity garnered by Kashmiri willow bats through their participation in tournaments like the IPL.
In conclusion, the journey of Kashmir willow cricket bats from local craftsmanship to international acclaim is a testament to the dedication and passion of individuals like Fawzal Kabeer. As these exceptional bats prepare to grace the ODI World Cup, they represent not just the heritage of Jammu and Kashmir but also the promise of a bright future for the region’s cricketing legacy.