NEW DELHI: It’s a World Cup bonanza. Far away from the Wanderers, Centurion or Kingsmead, in a region where playing the game is yet to develop into a passion, there is a heady spin-off from that sporting extravaganza.
The makers of cricket bats in the Kashmir Valley are flooded with orders, working overtime to execute them.
The industry boasts some 400 units, provides employment to 10,000 persons, and has an annual turnover estimated at Rs 450 crore.
While an average of 10 to 12 lakh bats are sold each year, the World Cup has generated the sale of 15 lakh bats in the past few weeks.
Kashmir willow is calling the shots, the question is whether this will remain a one-off affair.
For though the quality of the willow is perhaps excelled only by what is grown in the original land of cricket, the finished products of the Valley have never made it really big.
The willow blades go to Jalandhar and Meerut where the sports gear industry thrives.
The value addition – particularly the quality of the cane handles that absorb the “shock” – is what brings in the money and the primary producers of the Valley lose out. Which is causing them no end of heartburn.
But they are going about things the wrong way by seeking a ban on the “export” of naturally-seasoned blades and insisting that only finished products be sent outside the state.
Big-time producers in Meerut and Jalandhar could import blades from other parts of the world – and eventually there would be fewer takers for a cottage industry in the Valley.
The answer lies in upgrading the quality of the bats and competing with what is turned out elsewhere.
The restrictive approach advocated by Kashmiri manufacturers is myopic, perhaps even self-defeating.
The cricket bat industry had the potential to substantially boost the economy of the state; even when militancy was at its height it was one of the few that kept going. It would be appropriate now for an initiative to boost both quality and quantity.
Kashmir’s bat-makers have proved as resolute as Rahul Dravid, now they must acquire the verve and flair of Tendulkar.
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