The English willow cricket bat is seen by many as the gold-standard of bats. We’re here to tell you that in this strange industry, a bat made of English willow isn’t your only option, and there are more choices for buying a reliable bat that can help you to hit six after six this season (or just survive at the crease and hope your teammate does something).
English willow may not be the right choice for you, so we’re here to help you understand the strange economics of cricket bats, and explore the alternatives.
The Cost of English Willow
If you’re looking at cricket bats for the very first time, you might be absolutely stunned by the prices. It’s not unusual to drop £400 on a bat and there is no guarantee that is going to last you for season after season.
So, why is English willow so expensive?
Well, there are limited supplies, and it needs the right conditions to grow. The “Weeping Willow” type of tree is not suitable for cricket bats. Did you know that some cricket bat manufacturers are actually so keen to find supplies that they’ll pay people who have English willow in their garden to let them have it?
English willow is expensive in part down to supply and demand.
What about cricket bats?
Well, most bats have quite a strange route to the sports shops and to your kit bag. English willow is often shipped to India to be turned into bats, and then shipped back to England as the finished product. All of this importing and exporting adds to the bottom line, and guess what, it is passed onto consumers.
Other costs in making bats drive up the price, too. For instance, chasing professionals for sponsorship and endorsement adds to a cricket bat company’s expenses and ultimately makes their products more costly.
For the beginner and the casual player, choosing a cricket bat is a difficult task, and it can be very frustrating trying to get the right model that doesn’t break the bank.
If you are buying junior bats, it’s even more frustrating. If you spend a lot on an English willow model only for your child to outgrow it then you might be back to square one in a season’s time. You can see how the costs build up.
An Alternative – Kashmir Willow
Kashmir willow is used to make a lot of cricket bats, too. So, what is Kashmir willow? Well, the Salix Alba Willow tree is exactly the same as that grown in the UK.
The English took the willow to India, and started to grow the trees in the conditions of Kashmir. They had spotted that there could be a real shortage of willow in the future, and they also wanted access to bats in India. We all know how cricket-mad India is as a country, too.
Kashmir willow is actually pretty similar. You might think it would be identical due to the fact that it is exactly the same tree, but there are some variations. It goes to show how much conditions play a part in growing trees.
Because of the fact that it is a drier climate, the wood tends to grow darker, and has a little less moisture content. This has both pros and cons when you are using the bat (more on that below).
One huge difference is the price.
Because of the fact that it doesn’t get exported and imported repeatedly, and that the wood is in higher quantities in India, these bats cost less to make. Cricket bat importers aren’t taking on extra costs due to the wood being shipped halfway around the globe.
The Village Cricket Co has focused on creating the ideal bat for English conditions made out of this Kashmir willow. It’s the ideal bat to put in your kit bag for any newcomers at your club to use, or it is an ideal option for beginners.
The Village Cricket Co also has a junior range. For those who are sick of having to buy a new bat in a size up every year, or every couple of years, there’s every chance that you can save a lot of money by delving into the junior bats from the Village Cricket Co.
Kashmir and English Willow Cricket Bats – Compared
Let’s dive into some of the biggest differences.
Weight – Kashmir is a hotter location, which means less moisture in the wood and the bat tends to be a little more dense. In a 2lb 10oz bat, this really doesn’t make much difference (the weight is the same whatever wood is used).
Kashmir willow is long-lasting – It could last for up to five seasons longer than English willow if you treat it right. You need to make sure you knock in the bat correctly. Fortunately you don’t have to do this before using the bat if you buy from the Village Cricket Co. as the bat comes knocked in already.
‘Ping’ – It’s a bit of an abstract term. The ‘ping’ is how nicely a ball flies when you middle it, or make good contact. This is not something most village cricketers have to worry about too often. The Village Cricket bat has a low middle, perfect for English pitches and getting a bit more pickup. If you middle it with a Kashmir bat it will still fly some distance!
Colour – You’ll notice that Kashmir willow tends to be a bit darker, but this isn’t always the case. Some of the bats look indistinguishable, especially if the lighter Kashmir willow is used in production.
Cost – We’ve mentioned it already, but it is worth repeating. Some cricket bats can set you back many hundreds of pounds. If you’ve got the money laying around and you think that a bat is worth it, then go ahead and buy an English willow cricket bat. The Village Cricket Bat is a fraction of the price, and with minimal difference when it comes to quality. It gives you the option to access a reliable and hard-wearing bat on the weekends and when you take it to the nets.
The bat is also already knocked in when it comes to you, so you can head straight to the nets and start hitting balls with no need for extra maintenance.
Cricket is not a cheap sport to get involved with, but we don’t believe that it should be prohibitive, and that everyone should be able to access a decent bat without effectively paying all of the English willow costs, paying for import and export, and for sponsoring the pros.
Is Kashmir Willow For Me?
A lot of people turn to this type of willow and are delighted to find these bats when they see the English willow cricket bats’ price.
Kashmir willow is no “pound shop” alternative. This type of willow is popular at the village level of the game, but the high-grade bats have also been made popular by some pros. Sunil Gavaskar, Virender Sehwag, and Yuvraj Singh have all used this type of willow in their cricket bats, as have some West Indies cricketers including Sir Viv Richards in the past.
You’re not going to be a laughing stock for turning up with one of these bats, and with a few hundred quid saved in your pocket, it might be you that is laughing!
Check out the bat that started it all, the Village Cricket Bat, and our range of junior and Harrow sizes. The bats are incredibly reasonably-priced, and even come with a money-back guarantee should anything go wrong in the early days of using the bat.