28 July, 2021

Weeping Willow: Why Kashmir's Bat-Making Industry Has Been Hit For A Six

Changes in political and societal dynamics of Jammu and Kashmir have coincided with a rapid decline in the growth of Kashmir willow

Children play cricket at a willow plantation on the outskirts of Srinagar
Photographs by Umer Asif
Weeping Willow: Why Kashmir's Bat-Making Industry Has Been Hit For A Six

Imagine a perfectly executed cover drive in a packed stadium—the bat swinging down in a high arc, the sweet crack of bat meeting 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. The scenic hills of Kashmir, where the snow runs deep in winters and the summers are mellow, are home to the Kashmir willow, the tree from which comes some of the best cricket bats in the world, considered on a par with, if not better than, the English willow. And 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. International cricketers may prefer bats made of the much lighter English willow, but for junior players it has invariably always been the ubiquitous BDM, SG or SS bats made of home-grown willow.

But the Kashmir willow no longer carries the punch it was once famous for....

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