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‘Tough deliveries’ from J&K keep bat makers on tenterhooks

Restrictions on transportation of raw material from the Valley post abrogation of Article 370 giving bat manufacturers in Meerut the blues

lucknow Updated: Sep 17, 2019 14:19 IST
S Raju
S Raju
Hindustan Times, Meerut
Meerut-based bat-making companies, which cater to the requirements of domestic sportsmen and export products to over two dozen cricket playing countries, are a worried lot.
Meerut-based bat-making companies, which cater to the requirements of domestic sportsmen and export products to over two dozen cricket playing countries, are a worried lot.(HT Photo)
         

Kashmir willow has batted for the cricket equipment industry in Meerut for decades. But this workhorse is now battered due to the lockdown in J&K and restrictions on transportation of raw material from the Valley post abrogation of Article 370.

Meerut-based bat-making companies, which cater to the requirements of domestic sportsmen and export products to over two dozen cricket playing countries, are a worried lot.

“We don’t know how long this situation continues in J&K. In the long run, it would have an adverse effect on manufacturing of cricket bats,” said Puneet Mohan Sharma, chairman of Meerut Sports Goods Manufacturers’ Association.

The cricket season is about to start after the monsoon and there will be a huge demand for bats. As of now, the companies are banking on their Kashmir willow stocks procured before the lockdown. But catering to demands during the season will be difficult, he said.

Leading bat-makers place orders worth crores to companies in the valley to purchase Kashmir willow. The sudden lockdown in the Valley has not even given them a chance to shift their stock from there. Worse still, there is no communication between buyers and sellers for over a month due to suspension of Internet services in J&K, which would have a cascading effect on business at both ends, said manufacturers in Meerut.

The Kashmir willow, known for its durability, is widely used in making bats for budding and professional cricketers. Many global brands of cricket bats like SG, SS, BDM, SA and others have their units here and are potential buyers of Kashmiri willow, which is a substitute of English Willow (best willow for manufacturing cricket bats used by international cricket players), said manufacturers.

Paras Anand, director of Sanspareil Greenlands (SG), explained: “At present, we don’t have any problem because the cricket season hasn’t begun. But if the lockdown continues, business would be difficult for us.”

In their bid to search an alternative for Kashmir willow, a few manufacturers have started replacing it with Canadian Willow, which is not as durable as Kashmir willow.

“Our industry is incurring high costs in making Kashmir willow bats. Reason: We have to purchase semi-finished clefts of Kashmir willow from the Valley and thereafter reprocess them here to convert them into quality bats because we can’t bring raw Kashmir willow from J&K,” stated Aniruddh Som, owner of SA Cricket Company.

Another manufacturer said: “Many bat-makers have set up their factories in Jammu area where they manufacture semi-finished bats and then send them here for final finish. This increases the cost, but cricketers get quality bats.”

Som said that a few cricket bat manufacturers are now importing Canadian willow to avoid complexities in purchasing Kashmir willow.

“Canadian willow is cheaper and good, but it has durability issues. While a bat made of Kashmir willow could be used for two years, the Canadian willow bat may last for 6- 8 months only,” he added.

Som emphasised: “The cricket equipment industry of India will flourish manifold if restrictions on transportation of Kashmir willow are lifted.”

“The sports goods manufacturers’ association has given representations at almost every level to lift restrictions on transportation of Kashmir willow from outside J&K and to make sports goods free from GST. But nobody paid heed to our demands,” said Puneet Mohan Sharma.

“I hope the situation normalises soon,” he added.

Canadian willow an option, for now

A few cricket bat manufacturers in Meerut have started importing Canadian willow to avoid complexities in purchasing Kashmir willow.

“Canadian willow is cheaper and good, but it has durability issues. While a bat made of Kashmir willow could be used for two years, the Canadian willow bat may last for 6- 8 months only,” said a manufacturer.

High costs

“Our industry is incurring high costs in making Kashmir willow bats. Reason: We have to purchase semi-finished clefts of Kashmiri willow from the Valley and thereafter reprocess them here to convert them into quality bats because we can’t bring raw Kashmir willow from J&K,” stated Aniruddh Som, owner of SA Cricket Company.

 Another manufacturer said: “Many bat-makers have set up their factories in Jammu area where they manufacture semi-finished bats and then send them here for final finish. This increases the cost, but cricketers get quality bats.”

First Published: Sep 17, 2019 14:19 IST

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