Australian bat makers are rejoicing after they were called upon to supply the Pope's cricket team.
The St Peter's XI — a team of Vatican priests — will play the Church of England in an exhibition match in Rome in October and they will be using Australian-made willow.
"They were beaten by the Archbishop of Canterbury's XI last year in England and I suggested that that was because they weren't using [Australian] timber," said Victorian bat-maker Ian Callen.
Mr Callen's advice was taken up by Australia's Ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, who organised last year's inaugural match.
We've virtually resurrected [the bat-making industry] - probably improved on it because we've got more people who can make bats.Ian Callen, bat maker
We've virtually resurrected [the bat-making industry] - probably improved on it because we've got more people who can make bats.
"He came up with the idea when he was appointed... that the Pope should have a cricket team."
Mr Callen sent a batch of his own hand-made bats to the Vatican last December, but not before a visit from the local priest.
"When the bats had to go they had to be blessed," he said.
"Father Julian [Langridge] came out and we had the local school come out and they wrote compositions to the Pope explaining the game of cricket to him."
Mr Callen was a right-arm paceman who claimed six wickets in his one and only Test match in 1978.
He turned his attention to bat making once his playing days were finished.
He has also established an English willow plantation to supply the local industry.
This winter, he has trained 50 bat makers at his workshop in Tarrawarra, north-east of Melbourne.
Five of them will be chosen to supply another order from the Vatican.
Victorian Clare Johnston, a former player who is now trying her hand at bat-making, said it was an exciting challenge.
"I'm not sure if the Pope will actually be using them but certainly the team will be," she said.
"It's really lovely... just feeling the timber and understanding what goes into making a bat.
"When you actually make one it's just fantastic."
Mr Callen said the domestic bat-making industry is showing signs of revival.
"We've virtually resurrected it - probably improved on it because we've got more people who can make bats," he said.
"Each bat maker now will compete in his own community and will service his own areas."
Story by Damien McIver (ABC)