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Kashmir bat industry keeps fingers crossed for Indo-Pak cricket clash

A bat factory at Halmullah Sangam, a small hamlet in Anantnag district about 45 kilometres from Srinagar, has pallets of ready bats waiting for buyers.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2015 00:20 IST
Toufiq Rashid
Toufiq Rashid
Hindustan Times

A bat factory at Halmullah Sangam, a small hamlet in Anantnag district about 45 kilometres from Srinagar, has pallets of ready bats waiting for buyers. Asif Mohammad Dar, the owner of Good Luck sports, who has started picking up pieces after his factory was washed away in one of the worst floods to have hit Kashmir in more than a century, hopes the cricket world cup might just be the shot in the arm for the bat industry.

The bat manufacturers in South Kashmir, who are the suppliers of the cricket bat to the country's huge sporting market and an important source of income for the war-torn state, are expecting a rise in sales, riding on the hopes of a good India-Pakistan Match on Sunday.

The World Cup 2011 had resulted in a healthy leap in buisness. "We had around 15-20% more sales during that time,'' said Dar.

For Dar, last year business has been better than usual. Before the Gujarat elections, 10 manufacturers, including Dar, were given an order of over 10,00,00 bats distributed as election gifts to people during Narendra Modi's month-long yatra named after Swami Vivekanand.

The manufacturers who only sold to domestic market had also started exporting 10% of their goods to international markets, like cricket heartlands of United Kingdom (UK), Australia, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Kashmir willow which is less expensive than English willow is used extensively in the country and abroad, making Kashmir the leading exporter after the UK.

"Bats are made of two kind of wood -- Kashmir willow and English willow. All the stars in the country learn their cricket by playing with our bats. The training happens with our bats, later when the players play international tournaments, they play with more expensive bats made in the UK,'' said Ghulam Qadir Bhat, president, bat manufacturing association.

While most international players prefer the lighter English willow, the manufacturers insist two Indian stars Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh - used locally-made products.

That, however, was before the September flood. When the Jhelum broke its banks, the factories remained drowned for days. "We suffered losses of crores of rupees. The wood which remained under water, changed colour and became useless. We had finished bats and raw material which was washed away,'' claimed Bhat. Bhat said in spite of constant 'appeals', the government has provided them no relief.

"The bureaucrats say Centre has not provided the required funds as yet,'' he added.

Although the business has not picked up as much as expected, the manufacturers are hopeful that orders will start pouring in once the world cup fever picks up. "Last World Cup was very good for us. We got so many orders that we could not even meet the demand. This time the sales haven't picked up, may be because the event is being held at the other side of the world,'' said Ghulam Qadir Bhat.

Dar is keeping his fingers crossed for a good India-Pakistan clash on Sunday. "A good season can start in no time. We hope Sunday's India-Pakistan match is good for us," Dar hopes.

First Published: Feb 14, 2015 23:40 IST