Kashmir Willow Bat

M S Dhoni plants a great shot with his Kashmiri Bat.

Imagine a perfectly packed cricket stadium – the bat swinging down in a high arc, the sweet crack of bat meeting the ball before it races away to the boundary to loud cheers of the spectators. The runs that a cricketer accumulates are as much about his skills as they are about the perfect cricket bat crafted from perfectly mature willow.

Children play cricket at a willow plantation on the outskirts of Srinagar. Photography By Umer Asif

The scenic hills of Kashmir, where the snow runs deep in winters and summers are mellow and home to the Kashmir willow, the tree from which comes some of the best cricket bats in the world, considered on par with English willow. Budding cricketers of India walk out to dusty fields wielding bats made of Kashmir willow to hone their skills that would one day perhaps ensure them a place in their state or national teams.

For several decades Kashmir willow has been a household name and the favorite of millions of Indian cricket lovers and players who use it for both recreational and competitive cricket. Players from gully cricket to top domestic tournaments like Ranji Trophy and IPL have been using this willow for long.

History

The willow used in making these bats was brought in by the British around 1820s. Owing to the suitability of weather, Kashmir was chosen to establish the industry combining traditional tools with modern technology. The species is identical to “English Willow”. “Kashmir Willow” bats play well and evidences have been found that the finished product is better than its English counterpart. Moreover, these bats are available at significantly low prices than English willow.

In Popular Culture

Some of the popular cricketers who have played with Kashmir willow bats include players like Sachin Tendulkar, M S Dhoni and Sir Vivian Richards of West Indies. The Kashmir Willow wood is slightly harder than English Willow, but you will find these bats performing better than English Willow bats. These bats do not need oiling and can be used for playing immediately with few practice knocks.

Aiming Big Hits

World knows only two willows – English and Kashmiri. With the plans to upgrade the manufacturing units and take manufacturers for exposure visits and with an increasing demand in market due to big hit of Indian Premiere League, Kashmir Willow Bats are getting ready to meet the international standards.


Conclusion

Kashmir willow bats are popular across the world for their quality and durability. Kashmir willow is less valuable than the English willow. However, the cost advantage of the Kashmiri bats ensure that the valley remains the second largest exporter of cricket bats in the world right behind the UK where the sport was born. Some of the districts where these bats are made in Kashmir are Anantnag, Baramula, and Pahalgam mainly along both side of the NH-44. These bats are not only popular in India but also in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. As it is difficult for budding cricketers to afford English willows, the Kashmir willows become a more popular and reasonable option for aspiring players not just in valley but also around the globe.

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