Fri | Nov 15, 2019

Dalton Myers | Climate change concerns for Windies cricket

Published:Saturday | September 14, 2019 | 12:16 AM
Sabina Park, Jamaica’s largest cricket venue, in the sweltering afternoon sun of Kingston.

It is believed that climate change is one of, if not the most significant issue of this generation. World leaders have continuously been at the table, coming up with the Kyoto Protocol, the extension on that Protocol, and the latest and most significant deal, Paris 2015. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement stands as “one of the biggest multilateral accomplishments in UN history”. You can then understand why the latest report, Hit for Six: The impact of Climate Change on Cricket, is important for me and should be for the entire West Indies.

The report, produced by University of Leeds, Priestly International Centre for Climate, British Association for Sustainable Sport and University of Portsmouth, looked at climate change and how it has negatively affected the sport of cricket globally, but with reference from West Indies, England and Wales, Australia, India, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Most of the issues and ­challenges, as well as recommendations, can be applicable to several sports we play in the Caribbean. The three main risks as detailed by the report, include heat, drought and extremes storms.

In the Caribbean, we have been experiencing the effects of warmer temperatures, and the report argues that for cricket there’s likely to be more postponements of international matches, a reduction in the standard of cricket due to issues related to concentration, and possibility of increased heat exhaustion and heat-related illnesses for players.

The report further noted that drought conditions pose significant risk to cricket in the Caribbean as the sport depends heavily on the use of water resources. In instances like these, the priorities for governments are not necessarily sporting facilities as “access to water is likely to become increasingly contested as climate impacts multiply, and fresh water sources come under increasing stress”.

DEVASTATING IMPACT

The 2019 report also pointed to the impact of extreme storms on cricket, and by extension sports in the Caribbean. It points to the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 on small states, and for the purposes of this column, sporting facilities in the Caribbean. Memories of Hurricane Ivan on Jamaica and Grenada in 2004, and the latest untold stories of Dorian’s impact on The Bahamas are further evidence.

I think research on heat and cricket, as well as other sports, is important as for us as we play a lot of cricket, particularly at the regional youth level during the summer period, which tends to record some of the highest temperatures.

I also believe that the report did a very good job in highlighting some of the challenges facing cricket due to rising temperatures. Cricketers are further susceptible, primarily because of the many equipment pieces (pads, gloves, helmets) and other protective gear required.

While examining the report, I found myself very worried, ­especially for the younger players who may not be able to understand and manage body temperatures, or communicate what might be happening to them to coaches and other support personnel. In some cases, a lack of resources and proper facilities makes it worse. If you travel around the island, you will notice that many cricket grounds do not have proper shelter; and oftentimes players remain outdoors for the duration of the match.

The report made several recommendations which include but are not limited to heat rules, specific youth guidelines, hydration breaks and ICC global climate disaster fund to tackle issues arising from climate change. The recommendations are well thought out and should be discussed throughout the Caribbean.

My only challenge with the report, as with many reports addressing issues in developing and emerging economies, is that it may need to take into consideration that while we are affected the most in these cases, we often do not have the funding with which to respond. The recommendations would have to isolate the Caribbean reality to discuss the already poor sporting infrastructure that exists. Cricket is a sport on life support in the region, so governments might not be willing to invest as they used to, especially with competing realities. Even if the ICC creates a global disaster fund, the likelihood of us getting a large enough share to tackle the great challenge climate change poses is slim.

I think this is a good report which challenges us to think ­differently, but most important lays out the facts in front of us. In a future column, I will look closely at the recommendations in entirety and see how some of these can be implemented. I hope this will spark a national discussion locally.

Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com or tweet @daltonsmyers