Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir – International cricket giants such as Sir Vivian Richards of West Indies and Sachin Tendulkar of India used Kashmir willow bats in the past with great success.
Kashmir’s bat business was expecting huge profits this year because of the World Cup.
But manufacturers’ hopes for a big year were washed away with the unprecedented September floods in the tiny Himalayan region. The raging waters carried away most of the processed and unprocessed willow, and what was left was inundated for too long to be useful.
“The industry is in shock and will not recover even in the next 20-40 years,” Nazir Ahmad Salroo, head of Kashmir Bat Manufacturers Association, told Al Jazeera.
Salroo said business losses stand at $16.2m “and are growing”.
Most of the manufacturing and willow trees from which the clefts are drawn are found in south Kashmir, where water levels remain at nearly 1.8 to 3.7 metres.
“I burned ruined clefts worth five lakh rupees (more than $8,000), while raw clefts worth 10 lakh rupees ($16,000) were washed away. I was expecting a business of around 1.5 Cr rupees ($243,000) but now I am ruined,” said Mohammad Ayoub Malla, a bat-manufacturer in Awantipora of south Kashmir.
It takes 40 to 50 years for a willow tree to grow fully to yield a maximum number of clefts. In south Kashmir, many of these mature trees – planted alongside the bank of river Jhelum – were uprooted or remained under water for too long in the flooding.