Climate Change Is Bringing The Heat On Cricket’s Future

English cricket supporters were disappointed in a sporting context after their team’s defeat at Edgbaston in the T20 series against New Zealand last Sunday. The bigger picture showcased how the venue was centred on tackling climate change. It premiered as the United Kingdom’s first sustainable cricket match – a ‘Go Green Game.’

Organisers for Birmingham’s Test match ground requested that spectators take public transport to the stadium rather than drive as extra cycle racks were made available. Given the proliferation of more eco-friendly transport, charging posts for e-scooters and electric bikes were accessible in the stadium.

The whole ground was run off wind, hydro and solar power. Red meat was banned from the hospitality sites, and the food purchased at the ground was wrapped in sustainable packaging lined with seaweed. This was cricket actively saying ‘look around you’. Cricket’s village greens will not always be idyllic if current habits don’t change. Those chocolate box images may just melt or be washed away.

Several grounds are now aiming for Net Zero status to ensure that they contribute to a longer life span for all forms of the game. Fellow Test ground Old Trafford has installed a new Eco Roof Garden in the Players’ and Media Centre which contains a green habitat of planters, bat boxes, a garden kitchen and a greenhouse. Other counties -and countries – are following suit. The Melbourne Cricket Ground – or MCG – has become the first big stadium in Australia to function with 100 per cent renewable power.

“Cricket is one of the sports most at risk from climate change so it’s right we’re leading the charge to change attitudes,” said Edgbaston Operations Director Claire Daniel. Scientific analysis has already shown that droughts, heatwaves and storms are affecting the second most popular sport in the world.

At one point this summer, matches in Manchester, Colombo and Trinidad had days washed out within hours of each other. A roadmap of Test stadiums shows a bloc of continents and countries prone to seismic weather events, like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and the West Indies. In the World Test Championship, the nearest away venue to England is Pakistan, an eight-hour flight away. Prince William never did take that flight to Sydney to watch the Lionesses in the Women’s World Cup final….

The sight of Mother Nature activists reached the sacred turf of Lord’s this July when Jonny Bairstow accosted a Just Stop Oil protestor during the Ashes Test against Australia. Increasingly, sport is a target for those who lend their voice and actions at mainstream venues to animate their cause. The Climate Coalition published its Game Changer report in 2018 in conjunction with the Priestley International Centre for Climate, citing that “of all the major pitch sports, cricket will be the hardest hit by climate change.”

Other sports can be played in more extreme conditions. The forthcoming Rugby World Cup won’t have the interruptions that its counterpart will surely have to endure at some point in October. Rain has already ruined the eagerly awaited Asia Cup match between India and Pakistan.

The ramifications of extreme weather have been felt in both of those cricket-mad countries. Temperatures touching mid-40s to 50 degrees have been recorded in Southern Asia, particularly affecting the IPL last year. Lord’s even eased their strict dress code in 2022 as members were able to leave their jackets off after mercury levels hit 40 for the first time during the Test match against Ireland.

Australian captain Pat Cummins has been the most vocal representative for climate change action and was well placed to comment on recent incidents when bushfires ravaged Canberra and Penrith. Subsequent Big Bash games were cancelled. The raging elements also impact player welfare. Cummins was on the pitch when England skipper Joe Root had to retire from the batting crease hospitalised with severe dehydration and sickness in the 2018 Sydney Test. Pitch heat markers out in the middle registered 57 Celsius at the time. The quality of the cricket on offer and player safety will be severely compromised without more stringent heat rules. Daniil Medvedev said “someone will die” eventually at the U.S. Open.

The late Shane Warne was given a preview of the Hit for Six report that shone a light on all of the factors that threaten the game. “How the risks affect local club cricket, how clubs have had their changing rooms destroyed by flooding in the UK, how the rising temperatures affect the way grass grows, was scary,” Warne said.

Cricket has been running internal battles as Test matches, the most exhausting but traditional form of the game, fight to stay relevant. The recent Ashes series was a fantastic advert for the red ball game. However, red flags are everywhere for a sport whose health is so closely tied to the skies above.

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