“The rain has stopped playing” is one of the most mournful phrases associated with cricket. It conjures up images of spectators raising umbrellas in unison, those who aren’t waterproof rushing to find shelter and having to make decisions about whether to stay down in hopes that play will resume. .

Historically, such circumstances have characterized Britain. However, as professional cricket has become more widespread, both in terms of the countries in which it is played and the seasons which carry greater risks of adverse weather conditions, the risks of disruption have increased.

Additionally, the specter of climate change has wreaked even greater havoc with the task of preparing pitches and outfields, as well as keeping matches in play.

Several weeks ago I had the chance to speak with Mick Hunt, former head groundskeeper at Lord’s Cricket Ground, London. Mick began his association with Lord’s in 1969, becoming the Chief in 1985 until his retirement in 2018, a total of 49 years of cricket ground curator experience. He is therefore well placed to reflect on the changes that have occurred. Over the past 10 to 15 years, he believes torrential rains have become heavier and more intense, and four to five days of continuously hot temperatures have become more common. If they occur at critical points in the preparation sequence, problems arise.

In Mick’s opinion, about 80% of what groundskeepers should strive to achieve – a pitch that provides for an equal fight between bat and ball – is determined by the weather. In 2017 the UK Climate Coalition published a Game Changer report which looked at the impact of climate change on sport in the UK. His message was that “of all the major grassroots sports, cricket will be the hardest hit by climate change. Whether it’s Mumbai, Melbourne, Antigua or Lancashire, cricket is defined almost entirely by climatic conditions. If they change, the essence of the game also changes.

There are clear differences between countries in the challenges they face, but there are also commonalities. One of them is that warmer, wetter conditions create more pests and fungal diseases. General bans on the use of pesticides mean that the previous solutions are no longer available. Another is the feeling among Guardians that natural seasons are less predictable than before.

Specific examples of localized disruption occurred in Australia in 2017 and 2019, when poor air quality, caused by bushfire smoke, forced matches in Sydney to be abandoned or postponed. In 2017, a test match in Delhi between India and Sri Lanka was halted when the players were badly affected by high levels of pollution.

In South Africa, Cape Town in the Western Province suffered its worst drought in a hundred years between mid-2017 and mid-2018. This has led, among many other deprivations, to the cancellation of club and school matches. At Newlands, the main cricket ground, only the ground, with its high clay content, was watered, to meet water restriction levels. Bangladesh is ranked the seventh most climate-vulnerable country in the world, followed by Pakistan, where in Karachi, 230 millimeters of monsoon rain fell in a single day in August 2020. Hurricanes in 2017 hit the Caribbean and destroyed, among others, Dominica. cricket stadium.

Although cricket is highly vulnerable to climatic variations, its administrators have introduced measures to mitigate some of its effects. A notable development was the installation of drainage systems. At Lord’s in the autumn of 2002 the entire outfield, but not the pitch, was dug up and the natural clay-based soil was replaced with a sand-based drainage system, the first in the UK . This allowed rainwater to run off the top layer faster. Mick Hunt told me that the installed drainage capacity of the system was two inches of water per hour. It was not until July 2007 that this capability was tested. During the second day of an England-India match, three hours of morning drizzle was followed by a downpour at 12.30pm which caused the pitch to become completely inundated. At 1:50 p.m., to the amazement of all but Mick Hunt, play resumed.

Some have criticized that this type of investment, which has been replicated on other major sites, has as much to do with preventing gambling losses and, therefore, revenue, as it does with solving gambling problems. climate change. At Lord’s, the Marylebone Cricket Club has invested in other initiatives. This means that the estate is now powered by 100% wind power, no waste is sent directly to landfill and the use of single-use plastic has been reduced by more than half. Lord’s, like most professional sports arenas, switched to using batteries rather than gas-powered machines.

The United Nations Framework for Action on Sport for Climate has set out clear principles for tackling climate change. Recently, Australian men’s captain Pat Cummins, along with other Australian men’s and women’s players, started a Cricket for Climate movement. This is designed to encourage cricket clubs across Australia to achieve net zero emissions over the next decade, starting with the installation of rooftop solar panels.

Although Cricket Australia has endorsed this initiative, it has not committed to the United Nations framework. Neither, it seems, is the International Cricket Council nor the Board of Control for Cricket in India, although the latter signed an agreement with UN Environment in May 2018 to promote “green” cricket in India.

There are undoubtedly a number of political reasons why the main governing bodies of world cricket are displaying a reluctance to strike direct deals to deal with the crisis, succinctly described in August 2021 by the UN Secretary General as ” code red for humanity”.

When the Dominican Prime Minister addressed the UN in September 2017, he remarked that “under the current system, those who reap the financial benefits of greenhouse gas emissions are not those who bear the costs. costs…this is no longer a viable situation”.

Since then, the situation has not improved. Actions taken within cricket are fragmented and require leadership and unity of purpose. The inconsolable raising of umbrellas is no longer a sufficient response.