As India’s cricket frenzy reaches a crescendo with the IPL coming to a finale, ever wondered where the ‘English willow’ bats that help the Dhonis and Yuvis hit sixes and hundreds come from? Straight from heaven — a.k.a Jammu and Kashmir. “Yeh English willow baahar se nahi, yahin se banta hai,” says Bilal, one of the many bat makers in the area. “Bas naam hi English hai,” he adds, showing the tree behind his ‘factory’.
On your way to Pehalgam from Srinagar, on the Chesroo Awantipora Highway, the sight of wood pieces stacked in lakhs may just make you think they are some furniture workshops. A closer look reveals that these pieces are soaking the sun and waiting to be cut and polished into the finest bats the international players swear by. “Hamare yahan se Jalandhar, Meerut aur kahan kahan jaate hai,” says Mohammed, who doesn’t even count how many pieces he supplies every year. “Bahut saara,” he refers innocently to the one-time transports of 4,000-6,000 pieces.
For those ordering from the plains — the biggest of the brands — the work is very simple. Put the stickers, get them in the swanky outlets and sell them at nearly three times the original price. “Sab bade bade players khelte hai Kashmir ke bat se hi,” says Bilal.
And how has the sale gone up in recent times? The answer tells you again how far they are from business of games. “Jab jab India jeetta hai, hamara bhi order badhta hai,” Mohammed says.