Kashmir willow bat debuts in international cricket

Anantnag, Oct 22: For the first time the Kashmiri willow bat has reached international cricket.

Bats crafted by GR8 Sports, a company in the Halmula- Sangam area of Anantnag, are being used by the Oman cricket team in the ongoing T-20 world cup being held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.

Two of its players, Naseem Khushi and Bilal Khan, were seen using the bats in the group stage matches played by Oman against Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, Scotland, Netherland, and Sri-lanka,.

The 29-year-old owner of GR8 Sports, Fawzal Kabeer attributed hard work, expertise, commitment, and willpower to take Kashmir willow to the world for his company’s bats earning international recognition

“ The Kashmiri willow bats were sent unbranded as we lacked expertise and art technique to take it to international level due to which it never got the recognition it deserved. So, to get this brand recognized, I followed all the rules framed by the International Cricket Council and managed to find some craftsmen whom he recruited into his company,” he said.

Kabeer said the focus was laid on quality and other standards.

“ We held discussions with professional craftsmen on how to ensure a unique style of bat making in this industry,” he said.

Kabeer, an MBA pass out from Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) has inherited this unit from his late father who had started it in 1974.

According to department industries and commerce, there are 400 cricket bat manufacturing units functional in the south Kashmir region.

220 units are operational in Bijbehara, Sangam ,Halmulah villages of Anantnag district and 180 in Pujteng, Sethar Charsoo, Jawbara villages of Awantipora in Pulwama district

As many as 35 lakh cricket bats are exported from Kashmir to other states annually.

With an annual turnover of more than Rs 100 crore, the cricket bat industry provides livelihood to thousands of people in Kashmir.

Low demand and the dearth of raw material are making things difficult for the bat manufacturers.

The sector is grappling with challenges in the absence of a modern seasoning cluster plant.

In the absence of these facilities, most of the bat manufacturers have to rely on open-air drying of willow clefts, which is slow and not up to world standards.

The raw material of bats is sent to Jalandhar, Meerut, and other cities where they use their own brand and sell them to international players..

The Kashmiri willow has high levels of moisture as compared to the English willow thus the bats made out of this willow are comparatively heavy.

The young entrepreneur, however, opines his initiative will give a boost to the Kashmir bat industry as the international market is being opened for all those associated with the trade.

“Our aim is that prolific players like Virat Kohli, Babar Azam, and others should also play with our Kashmir-made bats,” Kabeer said.

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