ANANTNAG: For the first time, bats made of the legendary Kashmir willow made an official appearance at the ICC Twenty20 Men’s Cricket World Cup in Dubai.

Bats crafted by GR8 Sports, a company in the Sangam area of Anantnag, will be used by the team from Oman this year. On October 19, the bats were used in a group stage match played between Oman and Bangladesh.

The young owner of GR8 Sports, Fawzal Kabeer, confirmed that the bats are being used in the cricket tournament.

Two Omani players, Naseem Khushi and Bilal Khan, who are using the GR8 Sports kit in their World Cup matches, were photographed displaying these bats as final preparations for the World Cup were underway.

Kabeer told The Citizen that “with the help of hardwork, expertise, commitment and willpower to take Kashmir willow to the world”, his company’s bats have earned international recognition.

Earlier, “The bat of Kashmir had no recognition, as we were lacking the knowledge about how to take our bat to international level, and were having no expertise and art techniques, due to which Kashmir willow bats were being sent unbranded,” said Kabeer.

To help his brand get recognised, he said that he followed all the rules framed by the International Cricket Council and managed to find some craftsmen whom he recruited into his company.

He said that he held discussions with professional craftsmen on how to ensure a unique style of bat making in this industry.

“Focus was laid on quality and other standards, which helped us manage the things from time to time, and takes our bat to international level,” he said with a smile on his face.

The young entrepreneur said that this is good news for all Kashmiris, particularly for those who belong to the industry, “as the international maket is being opened for all concerned.”

According to Kabeer, Kashmir willow is a “male variant” and has the strength to bear things in a unique way, unlike English willow which is a “female variant”.

He emphasised that renowned cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar have long expressed high regard for bats made of Kashmir willow.

The men from Oman played Papua New Guinea on October 17 and are all set to play at least two further matches on October 19 and 21.