It is a very strongly held belief amongst the cricket community that English willow cricket bats are far superior to Kashmir willow cricket bats.
But what if this belief is wrong?
No one is sure where they learned this ‘fact’ but somehow it has become ingrained in almost every cricketer across the country.
As part of setting up Village Cricket Co. we set about to find the truth. What are the real differences between English willow and Kashmir willow cricket bats?
A brief summary of the research we undertook to compare Kashmir willow cricket bats with English willow:
- Read approximately 300 articles comparing the two types of willow online (not everything you read online is going to be true, but if you read enough you can start to get a good idea what is and what isn’t).
- Test bats of different types of willow (English and Kashmir) as well as different grades of each type of willow in village cricket level matches
- Tested the same types of bats in both outdoor and indoor net environments
A brief history of Kashmir willow
To understand the differences between Kashmir and English willow, we need to understand where these two types of willow trees came from.
The Salix alba willow tree discovered about 300 years ago in Norfolk and has been cloned ever since to supply the cricket bat industry. It is thought the willow trees have been native to England river banks for thousands of years.
Other types of willow, such as the more commonly known weeping willow tree, are too dense and heavy to be made into cricket bats.
During the 1800s, the British, who ruled India, seeing the similarities of climate in the Kashmir region saw an opportunity to bring the Salix alba willow tree to the region. The willow tree saplings were taken by boat to India and planted. And so begun Kashmir willow.
Kashmir willow has the exact same tree ‘DNA’ as English willow so actually shares extremely similar characteristics much closer than you are often led to believe. The only differences being trigged by the slight variation in climate between the Kashmir region and England.
Let’s dig into the differences…
English Willow vs Kashmir Willow
The species of willow grown in Kashmir is identical (Salix alba var. caerulea) to English willow and the only difference is that the willow is not grown in England.
Kashmir willow bats play well and no research-backed evidence has been presented that the wood or finished product has different properties or plays any differently.
Kashmir willow bats are very common in social and amateur competitions, especially throughout India, although English willow is seen as a more “serious” cricketer’s bat.
Weight – Due to the climate of Kashmir being warmer than of that in the UK, the density of the wood is marginally higher. The difference is so marginal you would almost never be able to tell the difference and if you think about it a 2lb 10oz cricket bat is the same weight whether it is made from English willow or Kashmir willow.
Longevity – The slightly increased density of the Kashmir willow has its benefits. As English willow is softer, it is much more prone to breaking (particularly if you do not knock it in properly). Kashmir willow can last for up to five seasons longer than English willow when stored and cared for correctly.
‘Ping’ – The softness of the English willow means it has a greater ‘ping’. This benefit is barely noticeable to 99% of village cricketers. If you find the middle of a Kashmir cricket bat, it will go just as far as an English willow bat.
Colour – The English willow cricket bat is often whiter than Kashmir willow, however, this is only because Kashmir willow can vary more in colour. Kashmir willow can often be indistinguishable from English willow as often the paler colours are turned into cricket bats.
Grades – Kashmir willow, just like English willow, has different gradings that determine quality. G1 Kashmir willow has been used at test level cricket by the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Sir Viv Richards and often no differences can be seen between this grade willow and the highest grade English willow cricket bats.
Benefits of Kashmir willow for village cricketers
Despite its bad rep, Kashmir willow is much closer to English willow than the commonly held belief from the cricket community suggests.
In fact, there are some two core benefits for village cricketers to use Kashmir willow cricket bats:
1. Cost. Kashmir willow, despite being almost exactly the same as English willow, comes at a fraction of the cost. Instead of paying £400+ for a bat, you can pick up the highest grade Kashmir willow cricket bat for under £100.
2. Longevity. Kashmir willow lasts longer than English willow. Rather than having to spend another £400+ on a bat in a couple of seasons, it will be years (potentially even decades) before having to invest in a new Kashmir willow cricket bat.
So is a Kashmir willow cricket bat right for me?
If you’re a pro player at the highest level and can afford (or are sponsored) then English willow is perfect for you. You’ll be able to get a new bat every other season so you’ll be fine.
If you’re a village cricketer, if you have a spare £400 then by all means buy an English willow bat.
However, if you want a quality bat which is designed to last more than a couple of seasons whilst still hitting boundaries, check out the Village Cricket Bat – you won’t be disappointed.