Cricket bat trade in Kashmir stares into oblivion amid rising willow cleft scarcity

Cricket bat manufacturing facility in Srinagar. File
| Photograph Credit score: Nissar Ahmad

The 102-year-old cricket bat trade in Kashmir has upped its requirements over time to compete with producers that work with the fabled English willow. However bat-makers concern a scarcity of clefts may pressure closure of the ₹300-crore enterprise that gives livelihood to over 1,00,000 folks.

“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 Affiliation of Kashmir.

“This was evident from the fact that the longest six in the recent ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia was hit using a Kashmir willow bat,” Kabir informed PTI.

The UAE’s Junaid Siddique hit the 2022 ICC Males’s T20 World Cup’s longest six towards Sri Lanka utilizing a bat manufactured by Anantnag-based GR8 Sports activities.

Nonetheless, the 400-odd bat manufacturing items are watching an unsure future as they concern a scarcity of willow clefts may pressure their factories to shut inside 5 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 stated, pointing to the afforestation drives in Canada and Pakistan to underline his level.

He stated multiple lakh folks, not solely from Jammu and Kashmir however from Jalandhar in Punjab and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, relied on the trade for his or her livelihoods. “In a scenario where an industry is on the verge of collapse, the government needs to work on a war footing,” he stated.

Kabir stated whereas the Sher-e-Kashmir College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology offered them 1,500 willow saplings final yr for alternative, every unit wants a provide of round 15,000 clefts a yr. “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 stated, including that the trade’s annual turnover was over ₹300 crore.

Kabir advised that the federal government ought to think about permitting sapling plantations within the wetlands and on the riverbanks the place willow bushes was grown earlier.

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

GR8 Sports activities Manufacturing Supervisor Mohammad Niyaz stated the federal government had taken steps for plantation of willow saplings however it was not on the scale required to help the trade.

“More and more cricket leagues are coming up around the world and the demand for bats is only going to increase. While the industry can provide employment to artisans, finished bats can keep youngsters involved in sports and away from evils such as drug abuse,” he added.

An Industries and Commerce Division official stated whereas there was no dearth of willow in Kashmir, the primary situation going through the items was a scarcity of recent seasoning expertise and smuggling of clefts to factories outdoors 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, who just isn’t authorised to talk to the media, stated on the situation of anonymity.

The official stated a proposal to arrange a seasoning plant was authorized a number of years in the past however was shelved as a result of 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. Steps needed to be taken to curb cleft smuggling from the Valley to factories in different components of nation, primarily in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, the official stated.

He stated land measuring 20 hectares had been earmarked to rising willow bushes which have been developed by scientists at Sher-e-Kashmir College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

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