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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

Hit for six: Climate change threatens Indian cricket

Combining climate science with heat physiology, the first-of-its-kind report on the global impact of climate change on cricket shows how batsmen and wicket-keepers are increasingly susceptible to poorer performances.

world Updated: Sep 10, 2019 07:49 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
From extremes of rainfall, lack of rainfall or heat, the impact of climate change on India’s most loved sport is only set to increase, the report says.
From extremes of rainfall, lack of rainfall or heat, the impact of climate change on India’s most loved sport is only set to increase, the report says.(Getty Images)
         

It’s just not cricket, but ever rising summer temperatures and extremes of rainfall are increasingly putting at risk India’s most loved sport of cricket, according to a new report by experts on climate change released at Lord’s on Monday.

Combining climate science with heat physiology, the first-of-its-kind report on the global impact of climate change on cricket shows how batsmen and wicket-keepers are increasingly susceptible to poorer performances.

Mike Tipton of the University of Portsmouth and the report’s co-author, says: “It’s the extremes of temperature that present the problems for cricket, particularly when combined with high levels of humidity that also appear to be on the rise”.

“A batsman in full protective gear exercising during an Indian heatwave where relative humidity rises and the temperature exceeds 37°C will struggle to control body temperature; it’s just not possible to evaporate sweat at the rate required to control body temperature”.

“Heat and humidity isn’t new to India, but for every degree the temperature rises, the harder it is for the body to regulate. If the extreme hot periods are lasting longer, there are questions as to whether we will see unplayable parts of the season, particularly towards the end of May.”

The reports mentions recent instances in Indian venues when extreme heat affected play and attendance, as well as problems of water use during drought conditions. There has been a spike in recent years of ‘hot temperature days’ in New Delhi, Chennai and Jaipur.

The Indian domestic cricket leagues run between August and May. It gets particularly hot towards the end of the season. The average maximum temperature for days in April and May has increased by 1-2°C since the 1970s, currently ranging from 40-42°C, the report notes.

From extremes of rainfall, lack of rainfall or heat, the impact of climate change on India’s most loved sport is only set to increase, the report says.

Tipton adds: “Above 35°C the body runs out of options to cool itself and for batsman and wicket-keepers even sweating has limited impact as the heavy protective cladding creates a highly humid micro-climate 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.”

According to Kate Sambrook of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, “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.”

The MCC’s World Cricket Committee that includes Saurav Ganguly as its members was briefed on the report’s findings before the second Ashes Test at Lord’s in August.

Its 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.