India’s cricket bat business is in jeopardy

The best cricket bats in the world are made in England and India from willow trees. A bat is the long stick cricketers use to hit the ball.

Bats from India are in especially high demand. That’s because they are much less expensive than English bats.

Bats from India cost between $50 and $500, while those made in England cost three to four times as much.

The bat factories are located in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir and employ around 100,000 people.

The area produces around 3 million bats each year. The factories have customers in 125 countries. The cricket bat business brings about $12 million to the Indian economy. Kashmiri bats account for about 70 percent of the world market due to its lower cost.

Ishan Kishan of India plays a shot during the third and final one day international (ODI) cricket match between Bangladesh and India at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong on December 10, 2022. (Photo by Munir uz ZAMAN/AFP)

However, many of the factories in the area have closed due to a severe shortage of willow trees.

As Indian-made bats became more popular around the world, more and more willow trees were cut down. No new willows were planted to replace them. Timber growers chose to grow different types of timber that grow faster than willows.

Mohammad Shafi Dar is 55 years old. He is one of the skilled workers involved in manufacturing cricket bats. He takes a piece of willow and cuts it with a motorized saw. He then passes it on to another worker for the next part of the bat-making process.

Dar followed his father into the business when he was young. He told VOA that he, for the first time, is worried about losing his job.

Mohammad Shafi Dar has been working with Model Sports Industries, a cricket bat manufacturing factory, for around 20 years.  (Wasim Nabi/VOA)

Mohammad Shafi Dar has been working with Model Sports Industries, a cricket bat manufacturing factory, for around 20 years. (Wasim Nabi/VOA)

“In recent years,” he said, “bat production has declined.” He said some six workers recently lost their jobs at his factory.

On the main highway connecting Kashmir to most of India, there are 400 cricket bat factories. The drivers see the pieces of willow trees gathered along the road. Fifty of the factories have closed because they don’t have the wood they need.

Workers who lose their job do not have many other job options. Dar said they can become day laborers, work in agriculture or become sand diggers.

Fayaz Ahmad Dar is the Chairman of the Kashmir Cricket Bat Manufacturers Union. He said the willow shortage started about five years ago. He said that the business is almost “Extinct due to complete negligence.” Factories in the area, he said, receive only half the supply they used to.

Ahmad Dar said that tree growers in the area are planting poplars and poplars. The wood from those trees can be used to make plywood, which is used in the construction industry. Those trees grow faster and their wood can be sold sooner. Willows grow more slowly.

A manufacturer needs between 10,000 and 15,000 willows per year to fulfill the order.  (Wasim Nabi/VOA)

A manufacturer needs between 10,000 and 15,000 willows per year to fulfill the order. (Wasim Nabi/VOA)

Ahmad Dar said that he has spoken with the director of commerce and industries of the Kashmir area. He told her about the growth of cricket around the world and the importance of the area’s factories to the sport.

Ahmad Dar said he asked the government to set aside land that could only be used for planting willow trees so that the Kashmiri cricket bat business can survive.

After the meeting, the agriculture department of Sher-e-Kashmir University sent 1,500 little willow trees to bat manufacturers for planting.

Willow bats, made in Kashmir, are popular all over the world, but they may run out of stock soon.

Willow bats, made in Kashmir, are popular all over the world, but they may run out of stock soon.

Ahmad Dar, however, said that was not enough. Bat makers need a lot more trees than that. He said just one bat company needs the wood from 10,000 to 15,000 trees each year to meet demand.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Muheet Ul Islam wrote this story for VOA. Dan Friedell adapted it for learning English.

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words in this story

Extinct –adj. no longer exists

negligence -north. lack of attention to something

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