Over a long period of playing cricket, I’ve only ever used bats made from English willow. Recently, I’d been made aware of a preference among some players for Kashmir willow. The Kashmir willow vs English willow debate is about the question: is there a real alternative to English willow? So, I thought it was important to consider and compare the two options.
What are the Differences between Kashmir Willow vs English Willow?
English willow is softer and more fibrous whereas Kashmir willow is much harder. The English brand is lighter in colour while the darker brown of the Kashmir variety makes it stand out.
Technically, an English willow cricket bat should provide a better performance with that softness leading to better stroke play. In theory, Kashmir willow could hit the ball further but the bat is more likely to suffer damage more quickly.
1. Visual Characteristics
Visually, English willow cricket bats are white in colour or they can be described as very light brown. It should be more recognisable as the dominant form of willow in the bat manufacturing process. Meanwhile, kashmir willow is mid-brown in appearance, much darker than English willow and this characteristic can easily set it apart.
English willow bats come with a grading system from 1 to 4. Grade one is used by professional players and is the highest quality. Grade four is poorer quality which may carry a number of knots. Most bats will be of grade two quality.
Only grade one Kashmir willow bats should be used in a match or training situation. The willow should be unbleached and feature six or more grains.
Bats made from English willow tend to be lighter in weight. They should also feel easier to pick up and to play at the ball.
Kashmir willow cricket bats are much heavier and this weight will translate to the bat. It should feel heavier and be more difficult to pick up.
With an English willow bat, the grains are clear, straight and easy to spot. This is one clear characteristic that sets this form of willow apart.
The grains within a Kashmir willow bat are quite vague. They tend to merge in with the overall appearance of the bat and are difficult to make out.
The ping is the response of the ball when it hits the bat. With English willow bats, there should be a better feel and the ball should travel further. Thus, it has a good ping.
There is less response from a Kashmir willow bat and the ‘ping’ is much weaker. The ball can travel far if it hits the smaller sweet spot but the batsman has to do more work, putting greater power and weight into the shot.
6. Play and Use
The English willow cricket bat is very versatile and can be used in all situations. It’s suitable for matchplay and can also be used in any training scenario.
In training situations using a rubber ball or anything that’s softer than a traditional cricket ball, a Kashmir willow cricket bat may be the better option. It’s more expendable because of its lower price and it can therefore provide a more flexible choice in a training scenario.
7. Stroke Play
Bats made from English willow help players with all-round stroke play. There are no restrictions so there should be a good mix between power, precision and timing.
Kashmir willow cricket bats are adequate for all types of stroke play but they will offer less response for those who rely on timing rather than power. For big hitters who are confident of hitting the sweet spot every time, that power can see the ball travel further with Kashmir willow bats.
8. Professional Cricket
The vast majority of professional cricketers will use English willow bats as their preferred choice. Kashmir willow has some benefits but English wood is more durable and provides better performance over time and that’s why it’s preferred by the majority of professionals.
It is very rare to see Kashmir willow used in professional cricket. However, there are a few players who prefer it. In fact, even some international cricketers use Kashmir but they are in a very small minority.
English willow is grown in colder, damper conditions and the wood has to be more durable to suit its environment. The fibres are denser, more hard wearing and an English willow bat should last much longer as a result.
Kashmir willow is far less durable and more susceptible to damage. For that reason, many English manufacturers recommend that it is used in training situations with a softer ball. As we’ve seen, professional players have used Kashmir but that lesser durability is an issue.
English willow bats can be far more expensive than the Kashmir variety. A dedicated club cricketer should be prepared to spend at least £100 on his or her bat but the figures can increase to several hundreds of pounds.
Kashmir willow bats are a much more affordable option. They can start from as little as £25 and, at the very top end of the range, the high quality Kashmir bats should still come in at less than £100.
Which One is for Me?
Personally, there is only one choice and I would opt for an English willow bat every time. I don’t pretend to be a brilliant batsman but the English variety is much more durable and the one that would last for many seasons on the pitch.
If I didn’t play regularly and was happy with an inexpensive bat that might break, I’d go with Kashmir willow. It can easily and cheaply be replaced but, overall, it isn’t for me.
Some of the great players of the game, including Sachin Tendulkar and Viv Richards, have used Kashmir Willow but they are in the minority. For the rest of us, Kashmir is best used if cost is an issue or we just want to use a bat for training purposes. Most cricket bat brands in the world produce either English or Kashmir bats in every price range and quality, so it is up to us to choose.
In match situations, the English willow cricket bat offers greater performance and that’s why many prefer it.