NEW DELHI: Cricket bat manufacturers in Indian-administered Kashmir have welcomed the boost to their profile provided by Oman’s cricketers, some of whom have been using their equipment during the ongoing International Cricket Council’s Men’s T20 World Cup.
There are more than 400 producers of cricket bats in Kashmir, which is reportedly the only place in the world apart from the UK that makes cricket bats from the wood of willow trees — which were introduced to the region in the 19th century during British colonial rule — which is considered to be the best material for cricket bats.
Kashmir produces an estimated 3.5 million cricket bats every year, but most of them are sold within India. However, Kashmiri-made bats have been in the international spotlight during the ICC World Cup as the squad of co-hosts Oman have used them in their matches.
The bats used by the Omani cricketers in the tournament came from GR8 Sports, a producer in Sangam in Kashmir’s southern Anantnag.
“This is the first time that a Kashmiri willow bat made by a Kashmiri brand has been chosen by international players,” GR8 Sports owner Fawzul Kabir Dar told Arab News. His company produces around 60,000 willow bats every year but he expects that will now increase.
“It will be a boon and a boost to the Kashmiri economy,” he said. “It’s long overdue recognition for the Kashmiri willow bat.”
Omani player Naseem Khushi is one of those using a bat made by GR8 Sports.
“I have been playing cricket for 20 years and for Oman for the last six years,” the wicketkeeper-batsman said. “This is the first time I have used a bat made in Kashmir. It is more than satisfactory.”
He told Arab News there are four players in Oman’s squad using Kashmiri bats for the T20 World Cup and said they would “use this bat not only for this tournament, but for all future events.”
Dar and other industry stakeholders say that having Omani players use Kashmir-made equipment is proof that their bats are as good as those made in Great Britain.
“So far, people did not understand that Kashmiri willow is of the same quality as the British willow. Now it’s proven that we are on par with our international competitor,” Dar said. “This has really brought cheer to the industry, which has been yearning for international recognition for a long time.”
Mudassir Dar of Good Luck Sports, another Anantnag-based manufacturer, said he was “elated with the newfound recognition” of Kashmiri-made bats. “We are making progress,” he said. “God willing, we will introduce it in next year’s Indian Premier League.”
Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad said: “So far, Kashmiri manufacturers were supplying raw materials to outside companies, but now they are making the finished products themselves. It’s a great achievement.” He expressed his hope that the government would help to expand the industry, which currently involves 10,000 families in the region.
“Some small support in terms of branding and marketing from the government will help the local manufacturers a lot,” Ahmad said. “The expansion of the industry will engage more families in this business.”