Is cricket sustainable amid climate change?

The joke is that if you want it to rain during this rainier-than-usual summer in the Caribbean, start a cricket match.

Underneath the humor is apparently an unspoken agreement with the claim in a 2018 climate report that of all the major outdoor sports that rely on fields, or playgrounds, “cricket will be most affected by the climate changes”.

According to some measures, cricket is the second most popular sport in the world, after football, with two or three billion fans. And it is most prevalent in countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and South Africa and the West Indies, which are also among the most vulnerable places to intense heat, rain, floods, droughts, hurricanes, fires and sea-related rise in levels. to greenhouse gas emissions of anthropogenic origin.

Cricket in developed nations such as England and Australia has also been affected by the fact that heat waves become hotter, more frequent and more lasting. Warm air can hold more moisture, causing more intense thunderstorms. Twenty of the 21 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000.

This year, the sport faced the hottest spring on the Indian subcontinent in more than a century of records and the hottest day ever in Britain. In June, when the West Indies – a team made up mostly of English-speaking countries in the Caribbean – arrived to play three games in Multan, Pakistan, the temperature reached 111 degrees Fahrenheit, above average for even one of the hottest venues. warm of the earth.

“It honestly felt like opening a bakery,” said Akeal Hosein, 29, of the West Indies, who and his teammates wore ice vests during game breaks.

Heat is certainly not the only concern for cricketers. Like the more or less similar throwing and batting sport of baseball, cricket cannot be played easily in the rain. In July, the West Indies abandoned one game in Dominica and shortened others in Guyana and Trinidad due to rain and flooded fields.

An eight-game series between the West Indies and India concludes Saturday and Sunday in South Florida as the peak of the hurricane season approaches in the Gulf and Atlantic. In 2017, two Category 5 storms, Irma and Maria, damaged cricket stadiums in five Caribbean countries.

Matches can last up to five days. Even one-day matches can stretch out in scorching conditions for seven hours or more. While the rain cleared on July 22 for the 9:30 am opening of the West Indies-India series in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, players still had to contend with eight hours of sunshine at Queen’s Park Oval in temperatures that reached 90 ° C with over 60 percent humidity.

According to a 2019 report on cricket and climate change, a professional hitter who plays for a day can generate heat equivalent to running a marathon. While marathoners help dissipate heat by wearing shorts and tank tops, in cricket the use of pads, gloves and helmets limits the ability to evaporate sweat in hot, humid conditions often lacking in shade.

“It is quite evident that travel plans are disrupted due to weather conditions, along with match schedules, due to rain, smoke, pollution, dust and heat,” said Daren Ganga, 43, commentator and former captain of the West Indies studying the impact of climate change on sport in affiliation with the University of the West Indies.

“We have to act to manage this situation,” said Ganga, “because I think in some areas we have moved beyond the tipping point. We still have the opportunity to pull things back in other areas.”

The International Cricket Council, the governing body of sport, has not yet signed a United Nations initiative for sport and climate. Its goal is for global sports organizations to reduce their net zero carbon footprint by 2050 and inspire the public to urgently consider the issue. Although Australia has implemented heat guidelines and more water breaks are generally allowed during matches, there is no comprehensive policy for playing in extreme weather conditions. The cricket board did not respond to a request for comment.

A suggestion in the 2019 climate report that players are allowed to wear shorts instead of pants to keep cool in the event of excessive heat may seem like a common sense idea. But it didn’t get along with the starchy customs of international cricket or apparently with many players, who claim their legs would be even more susceptible to burns and bruises from slipping and diving on hard courts.

“My two knees are already gone,” said 32-year-old Indian Yuzvendra Chahal.

However, questions are raised within and outside the sport about the sustainability of cricket amidst the extremes of the climate and the grueling programming of various game formats. British star Ben Stokes withdrew from the international one-day format on July 19, saying, “We’re not cars where you can fill us up with gas and let us go.”

Coincidentally, the Stokes retreat came as Britain recorded its hottest day ever, with temperatures first rising above 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit. As climate scientists have said such heat could become the new normal, England hosted a day-long cricket match with South Africa in the slightly cooler northeastern city of Durham. Extra water breaks, ice packs, and beach-style umbrellas were employed to keep players cool. Despite these precautions, Englishman Matthew Potts left the game, exhausted.

Aiden Markram of South Africa was photographed with an ice bag on his head and another on his neck, his face in apparent pain, as if he had been involved in a heavyweight fight. Some fans have been reported to have passed out or sought medical attention, while many others have scrambled for thin slices of shade.

On June 9, South Africa also suffered fiscal conditions when it faced India due to the heat, humidity and pollution of New Delhi. The heat index was 110 degrees Fahrenheit for an evening game. Part of the stadium has been converted into a cooling zone for spectators, with misted curtains, chairs and fans attached to plastic water tubs.

“We are used to it,” said Shikhar Dhawan, 36, one of India’s captains. “I don’t focus much on the heat because if I start thinking about it too much I’ll start to feel it more.”

In India, cricketers are just as popular as Bollywood actors. Even in sauna-like conditions, more than 30,000 spectators watched the game in New Delhi. “It feels great. Who cares about the heat? ”Saksham Mehndiratta, 17, witnessed her first game with his father since the coronavirus pandemic began.

After seeing a spectacular joke, his father, Naresh, said, “This is cooling me down.”

South Africa, however, took no chances after a 2015 India tour, when eight players and two members of the coaching and support staff were hospitalized in the southern city of Chennai due to what officials said were the effects. combined with food poisoning and heat exhaustion.

“It was a mess,” said Craig Govender, a physiotherapist with the South African team.

For the recent tour in South Africa, Govender brought with him inflatable tubs to cool the players’ feet; electrolyte capsules for meals; ice and magnesium slushes; and ice towels for shoulders, face and back. South African uniforms were ventilated behind the knees, along the seams and under the armpits. The players were weighed before and after training. Their urine color was monitored to prevent dehydration. During the game on June 9, some players jumped into ice baths to cool off.

In 2017, Sri Lankan players wore masks and had oxygen cylinders available in the locker room to counter the heavy pollution during a game in New Delhi. Some players threw up on the pitch.

In 2018, British captain Joe Root was hospitalized with gastrointestinal problems, severe dehydration and heat stress during the famous five-day Ashes test in Sydney, Australia. At one point, a heat index tracker registered 57.6 degrees Celsius, or 135.7 Fahrenheit.

The incident led Tony Irish, then head of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association, to ask, “What will it take, a player to collapse on the pitch?” before the cricket governing body implemented an extreme heat policy.

Also in 2018, Indian players were asked to limit showers to two minutes while playing in Cape Town during a prolonged drought that resulted in the cancellation of club and school cricket.

In 2019, the air in Sydney became so smoky during a bushfire crisis that Australian player Steve O’Keefe said he looked like he was “smoking 80 cigarettes a day”.

Climate change has touched every aspect of cricket, from batting and bowling strategy to gardeners’ concerns about seed germination, pests and fungal diseases. Even Lord’s, London’s venerable cricket ground, was sometimes forced to loosen its stale dress code, the last time in mid-July, when patrons weren’t required to wear jackets in unprecedented heat.

Athletes are being asked “to compete in environments that are becoming too hostile to human physiology,” Russell Seymour, a sustainability pioneer at Lord’s wrote in a climate report last year. “Our love and appetite for sport risk bordering on brutality.”

To be fair, some actions have been taken to help mitigate climate change. Matches sometimes start later in the day or are rescheduled. Cummins, the Australian captain, has started an initiative to install solar panels on the roofs of cricket clubs. Lord’s works completely on wind electricity. The National Green Tribunal of India, a specialized body that deals with environmental issues, has ruled that treated wastewater should be used to irrigate cricket fields instead of groundwater, which is in short supply.

Players on the Royal Challengers Bangalore club of the Indian Premier League wear green uniforms for some matches to raise environmental awareness. Team members appeared in a video about the weather during a devastating heatwave this spring, which included this sobering fact: “This was the hottest temperature the country has faced in 122 years.”

Yet some in the world of cricket argue that climate change cannot be expected to be the most immediate concern in developing countries, where the foundations of daily life can be a struggle. And countries like India and Pakistan, where cricket is hugely popular, are among the least responsible for climate change. There is a frequent warning that rich and developed nations that emit the most greenhouse gases must also do their part to reduce those emissions.

“In the United States, people fly in private jets while asking us not to use plastic straws,” said Dario Barthley, a spokesman for the West Indies team.

Kitty Bennett contributed to the research.

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