Cricket 'hit for six' by climate change
From drought to heatwave and storm, scientific studies have shown that specific extreme ‘weather events’ made more likely by climate change are already impacting the game of cricket and predictions point to the risks rising. Youth matches in Australia have been disrupted, dire water shortages have hit a tour of South Africa. In the UK cricket has been washed out by flooding while in the Caribbean, the Bahamas is counting the cost of Hurricane Dorian, which experts say was likely boosted in strength by rising ocean temperatures.
Documenting these impacts, a new report, Hit for Six, has combined climate science with heat physiology to also show how batsmen and wicketkeepers are becoming increasingly susceptible to poorer performance as heatwaves continue to turn more extreme and frequent in cricket-playing nations. On the basis of safety-related heat stress guidelines, more games may need to be postponed or rearranged to cooler times of the day.
Particular care must be given to young players and the grassroots of the sport where elite-level cooling facilities simply aren’t available.
The World Cricket Committee was briefed on the report’s findings ahead of the second ashes test at Lord’s last month. The report carries a foreword from MCC Sustainability Manager, Russell Seymour.
The report’s recommendations range from the need for cricketing authorities to follow the example of Cricket Australia in introducing specific heat rules to managing the political risk of cricket grounds competing for water in drought conditions. Cricket equipment manufacturers should be developing helmets, gloves and pads that enhance air-flow. The report also calls for extra care around youth players who by nature of their physiology are more susceptible to extreme heat.
Scientific analysis shows specific droughts, heatwaves and storms made more likely by climate change are already impacting the game of cricket.
Mike Tipton, Professor of Human & Applied Physiology at the Extreme Environments Laboratory at the University of Portsmouth and one of the report’s authors, said: “Above 35°C the body runs out of options to cool itself and for batsman and wicketkeepers even sweating has limited impact as the heavy protective cladding creates a highly humid microclimate next to their bodies. It’s not the average temperature increase that climate change is bringing that is worrying, but the extremes of heat combined with high humidity. Particular care must be given to young players and the grassroots of the sport where elite-level cooling facilities simply aren’t available.”
Kate Sambrook of the Priestley International Centre for Climate and co-author of previous report Game Changer: How Climate Change is Affecting the Sports We Love, said: “Scientific analysis shows specific droughts, heatwaves and storms made more likely by climate change are already impacting the game of cricket. The world is warming, but not equally meaning some spots including cricket playing nations India and Australia are seeing the mercury maximums reaching much higher than the average.”
This is a wake-up call not just for cricket, but for all sport. For every player suffering, there are many more fans having to work and go about their daily lives in these increasingly harsh conditions.