‘Hit for A Six’: Is Climate Change Impacting Cricket in India? 

A new report says that climate change is affecting cricket & it would only get worse for India’s favourite sport.

4 min read
Sri Lankans during a test match against India in New Delhi in September 2017. 

Drought or heatwave, extreme rainfall or intense air pollution, scientific studies have shown that extreme "weather events" made more likely by climate change are already impacting the game of cricket. This impact on India's most loved sports, however, is only set to increase, points out a new report on climate change released on Monday, 9 September, compiled by the University of Leeds and Portsmouth.

Take for example, the India-Australia match at Eden Gardens, Kolkata in September 2017. Australian bowler Pat Cummins described it as the “hottest one-day game anyone said they had played”.

“I think the 50 overs felt like it was about 200 overs out there,” he said, in the post-match presser.

The temperature that day was 43°C at 12 pm in the afternoon.

The report points that the average maximum temperature for days in April and May has increased by 1-2°C since the 1970s and jumped to more than 45°C during recent heatwaves.

The number of 'hot temperature' days (above 37°C) has also increased in cities like New Delhi, Chennai and Jaipur which frequently host games.

Moreover, the average relative humidity ranges from 50-70 percent during October to May, considering India’s peak cricketing season, especially the Indian Premier League (IPL).

"Heat and humidity isn't new to India, but for every degree the temperature rises, the harder it is for 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," writes Professor Mike Tipton in the report.

Indian Cricket's Drought Woes

In May 2016, the Mumbai High Court ordered 13 IPL matches scheduled to be played in the state of Maharashtra to be relocated due to the severe drought.

Parts of Maharashtra had witnessed one of its worst droughts in 100 years.

Three years later, in March 2019, while parts of Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Maharashtra were reeling under severe drought, an NGO Aam Yuva Jan Kalyan Sanstha filed a petition with the National Green Tribunal to assess water usage by IPL, the report pointed.

Kate Sambrook of the Priestley International Centre for Climate puts these challenges in context:

“Climate change doesn’t impact regions of the world evenly and it’s fair to say that India is feeling the effects in multiple ways. Starting out as a hot and humid country, additional heat makes things very difficult for its inhabitants. India is heavily dependent on the monsoon and as this is impacted what has been taken for granted in the country becomes more erratic and unpredictable.”

‘Concern Not An Issue’

However, cricket writer Chandresh Narayanan, speaking to The Quint, said that in a country like India this might be looked at with jingoism and not objectively.

"Players understand the conditions and know how to adapt accordingly. It is too early to say whether players are directly affected by climate change. The conversation needs to happen and something needs to be done but it just needs to come at the right time," he said adding that India starts playing cricket as early as August  and goes on to play for the next 10 months.

Echoing his views, veteran cricket journalist Amrit Mathur tells The Quint that climate change affecting cricket is a "concern" but it is "not an issue yet".

“For example, the delay in monsoon the direct pattern of rains and monsoon has started affecting the scheduling of cricket. So is the intensity of fog in North India during winter,” says Mathur.

When Visitors Were 'Hit' By Smog

In September 2017, the unprecedented scenes of Sri Lankan cricketers wearing face masks to protect themselves from smog reignited debates about holding major sporting events in Delhi.

On that particular day, during the third test match between India and Sri Lanka, the air pollution recorded in Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium was 18 times the World Health Organisation (WHO) safety levels.

"This match should not have taken place in the first place. It is time the ICC [International Cricket Council] comes up with a policy on pollution," IMA president KK Aggarwal said.

But the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI) accused Sri Lanka of making a “big fuss.”

Going forward, Mathur says, there will be better understanding of the impact of pollution and that we will reach that stage soon.

"For example, when they hold marathons in the western countries, they take these things into consideration. Maybe, we'll also reach a stage where at some point, not just weather but also these environmental concerns will play a major role," Amrit Mathur.

The Key Recommendations

The 'Hit for a Six' report stated that while climate change does not pose a "uniform challenge" to cricket, acting immediately can ensure that it prepares us as best it can for the inevitable impact in future.

  • Cricket authorities need to integrate hydration breaks in the schedule
  • Adopt heat guidelines that would ensure the safety of players, umpires, spectators
  • Run programmes to monitor and assess the climatic conditions and health of player, including impact of air pollution
  • Consider allowing players to wear shorts where the temperature is above 25 degrees
  • Given increased likelihood of global climate disasters, consider setting up a fund to support communities from vulnerable regions impacted by storms, flooding and heatwaves
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