Fawazul Kabir, spokesperson of the Kashmir Cricket Bat Manufacturers Association, said, “We have been manufacturing cricket bats for the last 102 years. Our bats are of good quality and are approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC). There is no shortage in terms of quality. We are on par with, if not better than, English Willow (the manufacturers who use it). This is evident from the fact that the longest six in the recent ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia was hit with a Kashmir willow bat.
UAE’s Junaid Siddiqui hit the longest six of the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup against Sri Lanka using a bat manufactured by Anantnag-based GR8 Sports. However, the future of around 400 bat-making units is uncertain as they fear that their factories may close down within five years due to a shortage of wood. Pointing to afforestation campaigns in Canada and Pakistan, Kabir said, “Willow production is declining rapidly and we fear it may end in the next five years.” We are requesting the government to undertake willow plantation drive to ensure continuous supply.
He said that not only in Jammu and Kashmir, more than one lakh people of Jalandhar in Punjab and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh are dependent on this business for their livelihood. “In such a scenario where an industry is on the verge of collapse, the government needs to act on a war footing,” he said. Kabir said the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology had given him 1,500 willow saplings to grow last year, but each unit requires a supply of about 15,000 willows per year.
The annual turnover of the bat industry was more than Rs 300 crore. Kabir suggested that the government should consider allowing the plantation of wetlands and river banks where willow trees used to grow. GR8 sports production manager Mohammad Niaz said the government has taken steps to plant willow saplings but it is not enough as per the needs of the industry.
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