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Batting for Kashmir

February 24, 2024
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Sachin Tendulkar’s recent visit to a bat manufacturing unit in Kashmir, where he praised the quality of Kashmir willow bats, is poised to make a significant impact on the cricketing landscape, both locally and globally. Tendulkar’s stature as one of cricket’s all-time greats lends immense weight to his endorsements and opinions within the cricketing community. The visit itself was unexpected, yet immensely gratifying for the bat manufacturers in Kashmir. Tendulkar’s spontaneous visit, accompanied by his family, speaks volumes about his genuine interest in the sport and his appreciation for the craftsmanship involved in producing cricket bats. Tendulkar’s comments on the quality of Kashmir willow bats carries a lot of weight within the cricketing world. As one of the most revered batsmen in cricket history, his endorsement can elevate the profile of these bats. By personally examining the bats and expressing satisfaction with their quality, Tendulkar has effectively validated the skill and dedication of Kashmiri bat manufacturers. His comparison of Kashmir willow bats with those made of English willow further emphasizes the competitive quality of the Kashmiri product. The impact of Tendulkar’s endorsement extends beyond mere validation; it has the potential to stimulate interest and demand for Kashmir willow bats both domestically and internationally. Cricket enthusiasts and players worldwide hold Tendulkar’s opinion in high regard, and his endorsement is likely to influence their purchasing decisions. This could lead to increased demand for Kashmiri bats. This support is particularly crucial in regions like Kashmir, where socio-economic challenges often hinder the development of local industries. Pertinently, the demand for Kashmir willow bats has witnessed an increase in the recent past. The Kashmir willow has already proved its mettle in tournaments like the IPL and attracted attention and curiosity. In November 2022, UAE player Junaid Siddique’s 109-meter six showcased the Kashmir bat’s power. Several other international players too are using the Kashmir willow bats. With around 400 factories, Kashmir is a major bat production hub, involving over 1.5 lakh people. Willow wood sourced from regions like Ganderbal and Bandipora forms the backbone of bat production, with a large number of cricket bats manufactured annually and exported to countries like England, South Africa, Australia, and the UAE. Additionally, existing legislation, such as the Willow Prohibition on Export and Movement Act, XVI of 2000, serves as a legal framework to safeguard the interests of local bat manufacturers and prevent exploitation of resources. The government aims for a geographic indication (GI) to protect and authenticate Kashmir willow bats globally. The GI tag would enhance their appeal and recognition. English and Kashmiri willows differ in seasoning; English willows have 18% moisture, making lighter bats, while Kashmiri willows struggle to reduce below 28%. Upgrading manufacturing units and training bat makers in modern techniques are essential. Collaboration with experts and research institutions can improve quality. Research and development efforts too are crucial for durability. Now, Tendulkar’s advocacy can facilitate greater visibility and market access for Kashmiri bat manufacturers, opening up new opportunities for growth and expansion.

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