“Cricket is slow-bowling its way into the future. It has plenty to lose in a warming world. It also has a moral responsibility to act.”
May 17, 2018 (DESPARDES/PKONWEB) — Rain-stopped play or pollution-stopped match is not what you want to see if you’re a cricket fan. Could it become an increasingly common sight?
The answer is yes, not only in the wet-climate oriented UK but in hot, humid and pollution affected countries — they are on the frontline of climate change. Countries most likely to see “cricket change” in not so distant future could very well also be Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Sri Lanka, UAE, etc. — and Australia.
A cricket Test match between India and Sri Lanka was repeatedly interrupted in December with claims players were “continuously vomiting” due to hazardous pollution levels in the Indian capital
Commentators said it was the first recorded instance of an international match being halted due to the toxic smog that afflicts much of north India year-round but worsens to hazardous levels during winter months.
“There aren’t too many rules regarding pollution. What we are going to do tomorrow is in the hands of the match referee. They will have meetings tonight to put in some sort of a precedent if it happens like this tomorrow,” the Sri Lanka coach Nic Pothas told reporters after the match.
In the summer of 2012, three of England’s 13 One Day International events were abandoned due to rain, while no result was possible in two of their seven Test matches with West Indies and South Africa.
A report published by Climate Coalition, the UK’s largest climate change action group, in February, has named cricket as the sport that will be hardest hit by climate change in England, stating that “wetter winters and more intense summer downpours are disrupting the game at every level”.
Experts say the less cricket we play, the fewer people will watch it, the less they will come to the ground, the less chance there is for young people to be inspired.
The Glamorgan Head of Operations, Dan Cherry, warns that climate change could “fundamentally change the game”.
In international cricket, 27 percent of England’s home one-day internationals since 2000 have been played with reduced overs because of rain delays. The rate of rain-affected matches has more than doubled since 2011, with five percent of matches abandoned completely.
In 2016 a major match in India had to be moved due to a severe water shortage. And pitches in Bangladesh – a country threatened by intense cyclones, rising sea levels and increasing temperatures – are also feeling the pressure.
Sri Lanka and the West Indies are vulnerable to rising sea levels. And intense droughts, interspersed with periods of equally intense rainfall, are disrupting the game in southern Australia.
In Britain, there is a danger that what are considered to be traditional weather conditions for cricket could disappear within 20 years.
Russell Seymour of the venerable Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) – one of the oldest cricketing bodies in the world – is the UK’s only cricket sustainability manager, and he is deeply concerned about how the game will cope with changes in climate.
“A match can be changed fundamentally with a simple change in the weather,” says Seymour.
“In the morning, sunny conditions make batting easier, because the bowlers can’t get any movement in the warm, dry air. Cloud cover after lunch increases humidity, and the ball starts to move. After a shower, conditions change again.
“Now imagine what happens with climate change. There will be alterations to soil-moisture levels, and higher temperatures will bring drier air, then drier pitches. This will bring a change to grass germination and growth, which in turn affects the pitch and outfield.”
In other words, the assumptions we make about English cricket, its landscapes and rhythms, will no longer apply. The ball may not move in 2025 the way it did in 1985 or 2005. The old-fashioned English seamer could be on his last legs.
The UK’s weather is likely to become ever more erratic. There are indications that longer, drier summers will be interspersed with more intense downpours.
“There is clear evidence that climate change has had a huge impact on the game in the form of general wet weather and extreme weather events,” says Musson.
It does seem that the people running the game in UK have taken notice of the problem.
But at an international level, little has been done to mitigate the impact of climate change. The International Cricket Council (ICC) – the game’s governing body – has not commented publicly on climate change or the challenges it presents to the game, nor outlined a grand plan.
The ICC does not set environmental targets for its members and shows little interest in issues such as reducing emissions.
Recent years have seen the popularity of the shorter form of the game increase in UK and elsewhere.
Twenty-over cricket is a massive money spinner and games can be completed in around three hours. There is even a proposal to implement a 100-ball version of the game (i.e. 15 overs plus a 10 ball set-up).
The shorter the game, the less chance of a total washout and hence loss of money.
As Tanya Aldred, co-editor of The Nightwatchman, the Wisden Cricket Quarterly, recently wrote, “Cricket is slow-bowling its way into the future. It has plenty to lose in a warming world. It also has a moral responsibility to act.”