Older movie fans and discotheque frequenters of a bygone era will no doubt remember the upbeat song “The Heat is On,” with its catchy saxophone refrain, from the 1984 Eddie Murphy comedy Beverly Hills Cop. Well, the heat has caught the attention of the cricketing world and at this time no one is jumping up to get on the dance floor.
According to a new report, “Hit for Six,” which was released on Monday at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, England, climate change and the subsequent increases in heat are having a profound effect on the game of cricket, especially in Australia. Down Under, they experienced three consecutive days of temperatures hovering at 46 degrees Celsius during the last cricket season, whilst enduring weeks of extreme heat, often leading to the abandonment of games. The game’s omnipresent nemesis, rain, now has a new and unlikely dance partner, the heat.
The warning signs were being posted all along but the cricketing world, like so many others, chose to look the other way. Last year, drought forced the cancellation of school and club cricket in South Africa, whilst, here in the Caribbean, we can still remember the haunting images of the Hurricane Ivan’s devastation of Grenada in 2004. Ignoring nature’s bellows is no longer an option.
The report, the first of its kind, combines climate science and heat physiology, and provides intriguing insights on how extreme heat currently affects players and future problems which will confront the game.
“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,” Mike Tipton of the University of Portsmouth and the report’s co-author observed. He further noted, “A batsman in full protective gear exercising during an Indian heatwave where relative humidity rises and the temperature exceeds 37 degrees Celsius will struggle to control body temperature; it’s just not possible to evaporate sweat at the rate required to control body temperature.” Wicketkeepers, porters of extra gear, are also vulnerable to the withering effects of heat.
The report also gives an intuitive understanding of the psychological effects of heat on the brain. It notes that the short term/working memory of bowlers and the ability of batsmen to concentrate become more stressed with increases in temperature. Umpires, who have to stand for hours on end, and are then called upon to make split-second decisions are also vulnerable to the effects of extreme heat.
At present, only Cricket Australia has specific rules to deal with the extreme heat. The Heat Stress Risk Index Management Interventions, which were introduced last August, includes increasing the number of drinks breaks and even suspending play.
The “Hit for Six” report concludes with a few suggestions for dealing with climate change. Cricketing bodies around the world should be encouraged to emulate Cricket Australia and adopt their own heat rules, while kit manufacturers should be brought into the loop to produce heat resistant clothing and gear that enhance air-flow. Other ideas touted included extending acclimatisation periods of tours and having cricketers play in shorts. It also suggested that the ICC, which is not a member of the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, set up a global climate disaster fund.
As Grenada’s prime minister Keith Mitchell writes in the foreword of the “Hit for Six” report, “Climate change is real.” So, what are we planning to do about it, with regard to our cricket?
Commission more Patterson and Barriteau reports?
We all know what has become of those reports, sitting on a shelf somewhere, decaying in the heat.
What are your thoughts Ricky Skerritt, CWI president?
—Courtesy Stabroek News