Regional specialisation within global value chains: a comparative study of cricket bat manufacturing in India and the UK

Rossiter, W. ORCID: 0000-0002-2199-1136, Smith, D. ORCID: 0000-0001-7359-8451 and Matthews, R. ORCID: 0000-0001-6031-7016, 2019. Regional specialisation within global value chains: a comparative study of cricket bat manufacturing in India and the UK. In: Regional Studies Association Annual Conference: Pushing Regions Beyond their Borders, University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 5-7 June 2019. (Forthcoming)

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The future of manufacturing in the UK has been a subject of major policy concern for many years. This paper uses a case study of global cricket bat manufacturing to explore the nature of contemporary manufacturing in the context of global value chains and the consequences for regional specialisation and economic development.

The manufacture of cricket bats has historically exhibited regional specialisation with production concentrated in the South East of England, especially the counties of Essex, Suffolk and Kent. Location was largely a function of raw material supplies (willow), access to skilled craft labour and proximity to centres where the game of cricket was first played. As the game developed into a national pass-time (or obsession) during the 18th and 19th Centuries, manufacturing too became more dispersed (Birley 1999, Barty-King 1979).

The introduction of cricket to India is best seen as a function of empire. As participation in the game developed, a domestic manufacturing industry emerged that was centered first on Sialkot (in modern Pakistan). This development was supported by a strong tradition of hand-craft production and the availability of domestic supplies of willow grown in Kashmir. Partition in 1947 forced many producers to re-locate to India. Helped by land grants from the Indian government, regional specialisation developed with production strongly concentrated on the cities of Meerut and Jalandhar, in northern India. Reliance on Kashmiri willow limited the export potential of this emergent industry.

Growing exports of English willow to India and Pakistan from the late 1970s facilitated the rapid growth of off-shore manufacturing of bats for the UK and Australian markets allowing Indian producers to become far more export orientated. The 1980s and 1990s saw the development of global value chains for the production of various types of sporting goods including cricket bats. This led to a sharp decline in bat production in Britain. Many of the leading brands outsourced production to India - resorting to a global value chain in which they effectively became ‘manufacturers without factories’ or ‘fab-less firms’ (Millberg and Winkler 2013). It became common for many brands to import fully finished bats to which they did little more than add their brand label, a practice often referred to as ‘white labelling’. Some leading British brands ceased trading altogether. As a result, Indian bat makers now dominate the global mass market. Remaining production in the UK tends to be small scale and specialised in nature.

Drawing on fieldwork conducted in 5 UK and 3 Indian firms, this paper explores the nature of these global value chains, evidence of interdependencies between producers in India and the UK, regional specialisation and the implications for manufacturing and regional economic development.

Item Type: Conference contribution
Creators: Rossiter, W., Smith, D. and Matthews, R.
Date: 2019
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 10 Apr 2019 12:42
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2019 12:42

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