SRINAGAR; Imagine Sachin Tendulkar promoting Kashmiri willow bat!
Well, this is not a fairytale, it is a reality. A one-minute commercial of DP World, the official logistical partner of ICC, has put smiles back on the sullen faces of cricket bat manufacturers in Kashmir.
In the video, Sachin can be seen walking into a bat manufacturing factory and trying some Kashmiri willow. He is seen going around the factory while street urchins donning Kashmiri pherans wave at the `God of the Cricket’.
“We are thankful to DP World and ICC for recognizing cricket bat-making in Kashmir. We have been manufacturing bats for 100 years, but the world did not know. People were just of the opinion that bats come from England and that is it,” Fawzul Kabiir, spokesperson, Cricket Bat Manufacturers Association of Kashmir, told The Kashmir Monitor.
What has brought cheers to the industry was Sachin trying Kashmiri willow in the commercial. “Sachin is the god of the game. He promoting our bat will go a long way in boosting our industry and economy. It took me 11 years to tell the world that you can get the bat in Kashmir as well. We now request Sachin and other players to post an appeal on their social media handles urging the government to conduct a willow replantation drive so that this industry is saved,” said Fawzul.
Kashmir boasts of 400 factories manufacturing cricket bats. Of these 200 units are operational in Anantnag and 180 others in Pulwama district. Having superior wood quality, the price of a Kashmiri cricket bat ranges between Rs 250 to 1200. English willow, which is mostly used by the national and international players, however, is sold at Rs 35,000 to 50,000.
Kashmir cricket bat manufacturing units have been battling a fall in demand and losses due to spontaneous lockdowns, shutdowns, and other issues. According to bat manufacturers, they have faced losses of over Rs 1000 crore since 2019. Over 1.5 lakh people are directly and indirectly associated with this trade
In 2019, the government declared the area between Awantipora to Sangam as an Industrial Zone in a bid to boost the fledgling sports goods industry of South Kashmir.
“Nobody knew the strengths and weaknesses of our bat until Junaid Siddiqui of UAE hit the longest six in a match with Sri Lanka last year. People came to know that there is an alternative to English willow as well. So many international players have used our bat since then,” said Fawzul, who also owns GR8 Sports India Pvt Ltd.