Posted December 27, 2019 05:57:08
The Boxing Day Test may need to be moved to November or March in the future to avoid extreme heat, which is a danger to players and cricket fans, a new report has suggested.
Cricket Australia must also work to help grassroots clubs deal with extreme heat, the report from Monash University’s Climate Change Communication Research Hub has found.
The study, commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), urges Cricket Australia to use its prominence to push for greater climate action and do more to look after player and spectator welfare.
Conditions in the middle of the ground can reach into the high 50s, with English captain Joe Root hospitalised with dehydration during the Sydney Test in 2018 when the air temperature hit 42 degrees Celsius, as a heat tracker in the middle of the ground showed 57.6C.
The report said that under business-as-usual emissions, Australian summers would only get hotter, with more days over 35C in December in the next 40-60 years.
Meanwhile, the “shoulder months” of November and March are expected to heat up to become as warm as recent Decembers.
“Despite the extensive heat management resources available to professional teams, continuing to play the Boxing Day Test in its current format at the end of December will expose players and fans to unprecedented levels of extreme heat,” the report said.
“If no effective climate mitigation action is taken, consideration should be given to moving the Melbourne Test to the shoulder season.”
Traditionalists will be stumped by other options bowled up, including moving the Boxing Test to a day/night fixture or playing a morning session before coming back later in the evening.
“These projections also raise red flags for grassroots competitions, many of which lack access to effective or scalable heat management resources,” the report said.
Heat stress is a growing concern, and while Test players receive constant medical monitoring, the same resources are not available for local community sporting clubs.
Mildura batting away heatwaves and dust storms already
Over the past 40 years, the north-west Victorian city of Mildura’s average daytime January temperature has increased by 2.7C. Recently it endured three days over 40C, with last Saturday’s round of games cancelled.
Games in the Red Cliffs Cricket Association have been shortened and the association’s Peter Kelly said the association had been forced to become “a little bit more creative” in finding solutions to the likelihood of more days of extreme heat.
He said the association had enjoyed some success running games at night when it was cooler and running training sessions in the local swimming pool to try and prevent heat stress.
Dust storms are also a unique challenge for the region, forcing the cancellation of games when visibility gets too poor.
“It’s something we really need to keep our eye on from cricket,” Mr Kelly said.
“Because we want to be encouraging people to play cricket, we’re saying that we’re being flexible and adaptable to make sure that we’re still doing that.”
He said he would be happy to see Cricket Australia making more noise about the impact climate change was having on the sport.
“For the safety of the people they’re representing I think they need to be able to be more outspoken and making sure that they’re pushing the safety of players and that, and the encouragement,” he said.
“It’s pretty hard to convince a young mum to bring her kids along to cricket if it’s going to be a hot lot of weather right through that period”.
Pressure on Cricket Australia to speak out
In a statement, Cricket Australia – which published a heat stress policy last year – said it hoped to roll out a more comprehensive sustainability policy next year.
“We acknowledge that a more holistic approach to sustainability is required to achieve greater progress to build cricket’s leadership in sustainability and lessen the impact of climate change on the natural environment,” the statement said.
“Developing practical frameworks, committing to targets and standing for meaningful and lasting change are ways we can create a legacy to significantly impact policy and action through the game from our national teams and community cricket.”
ACF campaign director Paul Sinclair said he wanted to see the national body use its influence to lobby governments and business for more effective climate change action.
“Cricket is one of those sports that is most vulnerable to those extreme weather events,” he said.
“Cricket Australia should stop being silent and being a spectator on climate change. It should get in the game and be a climate champion for action to cut pollution from coal and to get onto clean energy.”
Dr Sinclair – who is also the president of the Youlden Parkville Cricket Club in Melbourne – said while professional players were supported by teams that had the resources to manage extreme heat, that was not the case for community clubs.
“We’re not going to have doctors in tracksuits running onto the ground when it’s too hot. We’re not going to have ice baths and fans,” he said.
“It’s at the grassroots level that a lot of the impacts of climate change will be felt the most and that’s where we need strong action from Cricket Australia to use its powerful voice to get national and international action.”
Dr Sinclair suggested one move that could be considered by Cricket Australia was to leverage funding to help community clubs install clean energy projects at their grounds.
He also called on Cricket Australia to cut its commercial sponsorship ties with gas and power company Alinta Energy, which the report stated was Australia’s seventh-largest greenhouse gas polluter.
“Cricket can really no longer accept to take money from coal and gas companies who are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” Dr Sinclair said.
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