September 27, 2022

The funny thing is, if you want this wetter-than-usual Caribbean summer to rain, just start a cricket match.

Beneath the humor is seemingly tacit agreement with the claim 2018 climate report that of all the major outdoor sports based on pitches or courts, “cricket will be the most affected by climate change”.

By some measures, cricket is the second most popular sport in the world, after football, with two to three billion fans. And it is widely accepted in countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and South Africa and West Indies, which are also among the places most vulnerable to intense heat, rain, floods, drought , hurricanes, fires and the sea. increase in the level associated with anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Cricket in developed countries such as England and Australia has also been affected as heat waves become hotter, more frequent and longer in duration. Warm air can hold more moisture, resulting in heavier rainfall. 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 record-keeping and the hottest day in Britain. In June, when the West Indies – a combined group of mainly English-speaking Caribbean countries – arrived to play three matches in Multan, Pakistan, the temperature reached 111 degrees Fahrenheit, above average even for one of the hottest places on earth.

“It honestly felt like you were opening an oven,” said Akeal Hosein, 29, of the West Indies, who along with his teammates wore ice vests during breaks in the game.

Heat is not the only concern for cricketers. Like baseball’s roughly similar pitching and batting sport, cricket is not easily played in the rain. In July, the West Indies abandoned a match in Dominica and cut short others in Guyana and Trinidad due to rain and flooded fields.

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

Matches can last up to five days. Even one-day matches can be extended in blistering conditions for seven hours or more. While rain fell on July 22 for the 9:30 a.m. opening. of the West Indies-India series in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, the players had to brave eight hours of sun at Queen’s Park Oval in temperatures that reached the low 90s with 60+ percent humidity.

According to a 2019 report on cricket and climate change, a professional batsman playing over a day can generate heat equivalent to running a marathon. While marathon runners help dissipate heat by wearing shorts and leggings, in cricket the use of pads, gloves and helmets limits the ability to evaporate sweat in hot, humid conditions that often lack shade.

“Obviously travel plans are being disrupted by weather, along with match scheduling, due to rain, smoke, pollution, dust and heat,” said Daren Ganga, 43, a commentator and former West Indies captain who studies. the impact of climate change on sport in relation to the University of the West Indies.

“Steps have to be taken to manage this situation,” Ganga said, “because I think we’ve passed the tipping point in some areas. We still have an opportunity to pull things back in other areas.”

The International Cricket Council, the sport’s governing body, has yet to sign a United Nations Sport and Climate Initiative. It aims for global sports organizations to reduce their carbon footprint to net zero emissions by 2050 and inspire the public to consider the issue urgently. While Australia has implemented heat guidelines, and more water breaks are generally allowed during matches, there is no global 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 be allowed to wear shorts instead of trousers to keep cool in extreme heat might seem like a common sense idea. But it hasn’t gone down well with the starchy customs of international cricket, or apparently many players, who say their feet would be even more susceptible to burns and bruises from slipping and diving on hard pitches.

“Both of my knees are already gone,” said India’s Yuzvendra Chahal, who is 32.

However, questions are being raised within and outside the sport about the sustainability of cricket amid extreme weather conditions and grueling scheduling of various forms of the game. England star Ben Stokes retired on July 19 from the one-day international format, saying, “We are not cars where you can fill us with gas and let us go.”

Coincidentally, Stokes’ retirement came as Britain recorded its hottest day ever, with temperatures rising above 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit, for the first time. As climate scientists said such heat could become the new normal, England hosted a cricket match against South Africa in the moderately cooler north-eastern city of Durham. Additional water breaks, ice packs and beach-style umbrellas were used to keep players cool. Even with these precautions, Matthew Potts of England he left the match exhausted.

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

On June 9, South Africa also suffered taxing conditions when they faced India in the heat, humidity and pollution of New Delhi. The heat index was 110 degrees Fahrenheit for an evening game. A section of the stadium was turned into a cooling zone for spectators, with curtains, chairs and mist fans attached to plastic tubs of water.

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

In India, cricketers are as popular as Bollywood actors. Even in sauna conditions, more than 30,000 spectators watched the match in New Delhi. “It feels great. Who cares about the heat?’ said Saksham Mehndiratta, 17, who was watching his first match with his father since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

After watching a spectacular knock, his father, Naresh, said: “This gives me chills.”

South Africa, however, were not in danger after a tour of India in 2015 when eight players and two members of the coaching and support staff were hospitalized in the southern city of Chennai from the combined effects of food poisoning and the heat. exhaustion.

“It was chaos,” said Craig Gowender, South Africa’s team physio.

For the recent tour of South Africa, Govender brought along inflatable tubs to cool the players’ feet. electrolyte capsules for meals. ice and magnesium muds. and ice packs for shoulders, face and back. South Africa’s uniforms were vented behind the knees, along the seams and under the armpits. Players were weighed before and after training. The color of their urine was monitored to guard against dehydration. During the June 9 game, some players jumped into ice baths to cool off.

In 2017, The Sri Lankan players wore masks and had oxygen tanks available in the dressing room to deal with heavy pollution during a match in New Delhi. Some players threw up on the field.

In 2018, England 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 detector registered 57.6 degrees Celsius, or 135.7 Fahrenheit.

The incident led Tony Irish, then head of the International Cricket Council’s Federation, to ask: “What will it take — for a player to collapse on the field?” before cricket’s governing body implemented an extreme heat policy.

Also in 2018, India’s players were asked to limit showers to two minutes while playing in Cape Town during a prolonged drought where it caused club and school cricket to be cancelled.

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

Climate change has touched every aspect of cricket, from batting and bowling strategy to breeder concerns about seed germination, pests and fungal diseases. Even Lord’s, the revered cricket ground in Londonit has occasionally been forced to relax its strict dress code, most recently in mid-July, when patrons were not required to wear jackets in the unprecedented heat.

Athletes are asked to “compete in environments that become very hostile to human physiology.” Russell Seymour, sustainability pioneer at Lord’s, wrote in a climate report last year. “Our love and appetite for sport is in danger of drifting into 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 there. Lord’s is completely wind powered. India’s National Green Tribunal, a specialized body that deals with environmental concerns, has ruled that treated sewage should be used to irrigate cricket fields instead of potable groundwater, which is in short supply.

The players at Indian Premier League club Royal Challengers Bangalore wear green uniforms for some matches to increase environmental awareness. Team members appeared in a climate video during a devastating heat wave this spring, which included this sobering fact: “This was the hottest temperature the country has faced in 122 years.”

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

“In the US, people fly in private jets while they ask us not to use plastic straws,” said West Indies team spokesman Dario Barthly.

Kitty Bennett contributed to the research.

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