‘Extreme heat can be deadly:’ how cricket is dealing with the climate crisis | sport

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An extreme heat wave hits South Asia, hit early and unprecedented. March was India’s hottest since records began 122 years ago. In Delhi, temperatures are expected to exceed 44°C this week; in the Balochistan region of Pakistan, the mercury has been hovering around 50°C for some time. Crops are poor and there are power shortages as demand for electricity soars. Out of control fires are breaking out, including at landfills on the outskirts of Delhi, adding to the toxic air.

The Indian Premier League continues regardless. Last week, Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Faf du Plessis spoke about the challenges of playing in such debilitating conditions. “I take a lot of fluids before the game,” he said. “We practiced today and it was very, very hot. It’s good to get your body used to what you’re going to get depending on the conditions. But also, during the day, it is very important to try to manage the intensity. When it’s very hot, as it is right now, you have to make sure you conserve as much as possible.

“For example, when you bat,” agreed RCB bowler Harshal Patel, “when there’s a definite two, you try to take a two, but when there isn’t a definite two, just try to keep some energy.”

The 2019 Hit for Six report looked at the physical and psychological risks to cricketers from intense heat, from heatstroke to impaired decision-making. He pointed to the particular dangers to athletes of high wet-bulb temperatures, which measure how much humans cool down by sweating when it’s hot and humid. A wet bulb temperature (WBGT) of over 35C is deadly – ​​last week it reached 29C in cities of West Bengal and Odisha. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends extreme caution with any continuous exercise with a WBGT of 23C and above.

Among other things, Hit for Six suggested that countries establish heat rules, heat-resistant clothing and reminded governing bodies that they have a duty of care to children, who are less able to regulate their temperature. body and have none of the resources of the IPL. teams, with physios on hand to ensure players are properly hydrated, have properly prepared and can cool their core temperature with ice cold towels handed to them at the edge.

“Manage the intensity,” says Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Faf du Plessis. Photography: RCB

Disha Shetty, a South Asia-based science journalist and reporter for The Fuller Project, sees a real lack of commitment to the dangers of climate change. “We are having conversations about why our students are going out in this heat, but that requires a lot more engagement from the public health side, as well as policy makers from different sectors, including sports administrators. Extreme heat, coupled with dehydration, can be deadly.

“I think in developing countries we’ve tended not to invest a lot in public health, but the climate crisis is a public health crisis. Although this is understood in climate circles and public health circles, it is not widely recognized outside of it. We need to have big discussions about how we run sports facilities given both the high levels of air pollution in South Asia and now the extreme heat. Right now we’re just living with it, but there are some things we just can’t live with and heat waves will be one of them.

At the end of April, India’s PFA wrote to the Football Association of India asking them to reschedule matches which were due to start at 3pm in the state of West Bengal with temperatures around 40C: “The Ministry’s notification of Health says people should stay indoors during this heatwave… it is rather sad and unfortunate that the Federation and league organizers in the country are not concerned about the health risks faced by professional footballers playing under these extreme conditions.

In India, however, it is cricketers, not footballers, who have voices strong enough to reach the government – just as Marcus Rashford was able to do in the UK through free school meals. For Shetty, cricket voices could be crucial in increasing both action and understanding.

“Cricketers in India have a lot of influence, a lot of followers, and it would help a lot if they talked more about climate and environmental issues. I also wonder how sustainable the sport will be in this changing climate. locust is a means of entertainment and joy at low cost, but it is played in the open air and in a world in turmoil that is going to be increasingly problematic.

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate minister, told the Guardian that Pakistan is facing an “existential crisis” – one that connects it to India and other countries in the global South that are experiencing and will experience the climate emergency of disproportionate to their historical emissions.

“I see a distinct difference in how this heat wave is covered in Indian media and Western media,” Shetty says. “In the Western media, the questions are centered on what the Indian and Pakistani leaders should do, whereas in the Indian media, the talk is much more about fairness and how the rest of the world is going to have to reduce its carbon emissions. carbon.

“We talk about what historically high carbon emitters are going to do to help those who don’t have that footprint – a conversation I don’t see a lot of Western publications having. In terms of climate change, the solutions are going to be global and not just something the developing world has to deal with. Global climate emissions must be reduced, not just in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

This idea was mentioned in the Hit for Six report, when it suggested the ICC create a global climate fund to help countries particularly affected by the climate crisis. Three years later, no known progress has been made.

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