Srinagar: A specialised cricket bat willow tree nurtured in lab conditions by scientists at SKUAST Faculty of Forestry Beehama has made its debut in the fields.
Experts believe once propagated on a large scale on scientific lines, it will not only end the resource crunch for this wood based industry in the Valley, but will put Kashmir willow bats at par with their English variants.
Years of exploration by the scientists at the faculty has led them to target and select only few willow variants across the Valley that according to study have shown to be tough, shock-resistant, lightweight, having straight grain and do not splinter easily – requisites for making a cricket bat.
Dr Parvez Ahmad Sofi who spearheads the project told Kashmir Reader that Kashmir holds several willow variants with a miniscule percentage of it being actually fit to churn out international quality crickets bats.
“The reason for our product being considered inferior is only because a perfect material for the main blade was missing for this industry putting it at a disadvantage with our competitors globally,” he said.
According to him, it was the main reason that bats produced in Kashmir remained limited to use at club-level cricket
“Once the bat manufacturing sector in the valley will get the requisite raw material, you will see it reaching the international market with ease,” Dr Sofi added.
Being promoted by the Faculty as superior cricket bat willow and scientifically known as Salix alba var Caerulea, a female variant of the willow tree, the university will distribute it among bat manufacturers during its ongoing annual exhibition.
Dr Sofi said that the tree will take a decade to become mature for it to be rendered fit for making bats. He said that bat manufacturers are quite upbeat given several decades of nurturing willow trees will deliver them fit for making bats.
Monis Salroo, a prominent cricket bat manufacturer, told Kashmir Reader that they have arrived at the university to take this planting material for further cultivation.
He said that main constraints that confront bat industry is that in future there will be resource crunch as growers in the valley have mainly focussed on growing poplars, a tree that yields better returns for the growers in less time.
“If this spurerior variety delivers results in less time than the traditional willow variants, it automatically will gain popularity and we will see more land coming under its cultivation,” he said.
The manufacturers also hope that if the initiative is a success it not only will guarantee a regular supply of the willow, but the fact is that the willow clefts delivered after processing would be of international standard, giving bat manufacturers much needed boost to pitch their products at the international market.
Salroo said that the bat industry is still a lucrative venture in Kashmir given the demand of the product in market outside the valley, only some of the loopholes that rob us of profits need to be plugged and manufacturers up-scale production mechanism to become highly competitive,
Talking to Kashmir Reader, VC SKUAST said that the University is quite upbeat over this initiative as it would certainly catapult Kashmir’s bat industry to compete at the international level which has been monopolised by the English willow.