AP PHOTOS: Fewer willows worry Kashmir’s cricket bat makers

Oct 10, 2022, 9:49 PM | Updated: 10:20 pm
Finished cricket bats are seen inside a factory in Sangam, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kas...

Finished cricket bats are seen inside a factory in Sangam, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

(AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

SANGAM, India (AP) — Lines of shops display neat stacks of willow wood along a nondescript motorway in Indian-controlled Kashmir’s Sangam village. Behind the shops are small manufacturing units, where that willow is hand-made into cricket bats that find their way to India and cricket-playing nations around the world.

But in the future, those bats are probably hard to come by.

Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. Most are sold to Indian tourists, while the rest are exported to Indian cities and other countries.

“There will be no bats produced in Kashmir in the coming years if the shortage continues,” said Fawzul Kabeer, who owns a company that exports cricket bats.

Kabeer said the demand for Kashmir willow bats increased after it was introduced during the ICC World T20 competition in Dubai last year.

Tens and thousands of towering willow trees were introduced to the picturesque Himalayan region by the British in the early 19th century to maintain the supply of firewood during Kashmir’s harsh winters. Decades after, the region’s villagers also began abundantly planting the tree and using its wood to produce cricket bats.

But over the years, farmers in the region have been planting poplars in place of willows. The faster-growing poplar tree is preferred by the booming plywood industry.

“The trees are being cut in large numbers and no one is planting them again,” Kabeer said.

The problem is not expected not affect international players, who mostly use bats made from imported English willow, but will hit regional players and cricket enthusiasts who use the more affordable Kashmir-made bats.

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              Kashmiri shepherd walks with his cattle through a field where willow trees were chopped down over a government wetland at Haretaar north of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 27, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Kashmiri men play cricket on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 24, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Azhar Bhat, a Kashmir man tosses a ball with a bat to demonstrate its quality to a customer inside his showroom in Sangam, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Javid Ahmed, owner of a cricket bat factory displays his finished bats in Awantipora, in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Farooq Ahmed Khan, a Kashmiri worker prepares a cricket bat at a factory in Sangam, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Manzoor Ahmed Wani, a Kashmiri worker prepares a cricket bat at a factory in Awantipora, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Unfinished cricket bats are covered in sawdust at a factory in Awantipora, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Kashmiri workers prepare cricket bats inside a factory in Awantipora, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Mudasir Ahmed, a Kashmiri worker carries willow clefts used to make cricket bats as he walks past pile clefts stacked up for seasoning at a factory in Awantipora, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Kashmiri men prepare to chop down a willow tree over a government wetland at Haretaar north of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 27, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              A Kashmiri man measures log kept aside for making cricket bats after cutting down willow trees  over a government wetland at Haretaar north of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 27, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              A Kashmiri man carries a willow log after cutting down willow trees over a government wetland at Haretaar north of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 27, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Willow trees are seen over a government wetland at Haretaar north of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 27, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Willow cleft used to make cricket bats are stacked up for seasoning at a factory in Awantipora, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Ali Raza, a worker from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh levels the surface of a cricket bat at a factory in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Imran Malik, a Kashmiri worker carries unfinished cricket bats made out of willow at a factory in Awantipora, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              A field full of felled willow trees is seen over a government wetland at Haretaar, north of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 27, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
            
              Finished cricket bats are seen inside a factory in Sangam, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sept. 22, 2022. Kashmir’s dwindling willow plantations are impacting the region’s famed cricket bat industry and risking the supply of cricket bats in India, where the sport is hugely followed. The industry employs more than 10,000 people and manufactures nearly a million bats a year. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

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AP PHOTOS: Fewer willows worry Kashmir’s cricket bat makers