It’s a sport known for its iconic baggy green, but now Australia’s top cricketers are determined to make cricket even greener as the impacts of climate change threaten the game’s future.
Australian men’s cricket captain Pat Cummins has launched a campaign to have cricket clubs around the nation install solar panels to drive down their costs and reduce carbon emissions, declaring that it is time for the sport to do its bit to tackle climate change.
Cummins on Thursday announced the creation of Cricket for Climate and its solar panel project Solar Clubs. Cricket for Climate will start with a push to get solar power installed at 4000 local clubs. First off the bat to receive solar panels is Cummins’ old junior stomping ground, Penrith Cricket Club, followed by more than a dozen clubs linked to top players in the next month.
The program is backed by some of the biggest names in Australian cricket, including Steve Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc, Marnus Labuschagne, Rachael Haynes and Alyssa Healy, among others.
“Few sports are more imperilled by global warming and it’s time for clubs and cricketers at every level to step up and be part of the solution”, said Cummins.
Cricket feeling the heat
The impact of climate change on cricket isn’t something you often hear about, but the very real consequences have been an increasing concern among organisers, players and the broader climate change community.
In 2018, a Game Changer report published by the Climate Coalition, noted “of all the major pitch sports, cricket will be the hardest hit by climate change”.
Cricket, an outdoor summer sport, is particularly vulnerable to climate change for more than a few reasons. It’s a game where players are attired in long-sleeved shirts, trousers, padding and a helmet. Test matches – the sport’s longest and most treasured format – last the equivalent of a working week. Many cricket nations are situated in areas that are already hot and getting hotter.
Not only is health a major concern as players and spectators are subject to oppressive heat, particularly in the UAE and subcontinent, but drought and flood are affecting pitches, playing conditions and subsequently player performance.
According to Hit For Six, a 2019 report by the British Association for Sustainable Sport (BASIS), scientific studies have shown the fingerprints of climate change on the heatwave that in 2017/2018 impacted youth matches in Australia, Storm Desmond in 2015-16 that washed away 1 Appleby and Eden Cricket Club in Cumbria, England and the drought that plagued Cape Town during the 2017/2018 Indian cricket tour of South Africa.
And the science says the impacts will worsen significantly.
Australian cricket legend Shane Warne has previously voiced his concern.
“At times in the past, it has been hard to know who to believe, but I think we all have to admit now that climate change is a huge issue,” the former leg-spinner said.
“The game has to have a plan, a strategy for how we adapt for it. It wasn’t something I’d really talked about with ex-cricketers until this year at Lord’s. I was really taken aback.”
Cummins has also personally felt the effects of climate change. He was on the field in 2018 when England captain Joe Root suffered the crippling effects of dehydration and wound up in hospital during an Ashes Test in record-breaking heat in Sydney.
“And a couple of years ago bushfire smoke made it hard to breathe while bowling, you couldn’t see the ball from the sidelines,” Cummins said.
“We’ve also experienced it overseas – Bangladesh, India – where the quality of the air can be down but also just incredible temperatures which literally made playing just impossible.
“Even the preparation of a wicket requires a really stable climate, so we’re right in the thick of it.”
Solar Club a win-win for Cricket Australia
Installing solar panels on 4000 local clubs will have a significant positive impact on the environment, reducing carbon emissions from dirty fossil fuels that would otherwise be used to power the clubs.
Helping the environment isn’t the only reason Cricket for Climate is promoting the installation of solar panels at clubs, however. It’s also a sound financial decision that can save clubs thousands of dollars in energy costs each year that can be reinvested into community cricket .
Rachael Haynes, the Australian women’s vice-captain, said the Solar Clubs program is a win-win as it would cut clubs’ power bills and greenhouse gas emissions and produce savings that could be spent on resources and player development.
“Alyssa Healy and I will be supporting the Sydney Cricket Club with the installation of solar systems at Drummoyne Oval,” she said.
“We’re both still involved with the club. This is something I’m sure we’ll be able to point to years from now as an initiative that made a very real difference.”
Cummins hopes other sporting codes will sit up and take notice and think about what they can do.
“We’ve got to do our bit to make sure we try to limit temperature increases to as little as possible or else in the future, cricket could be a lot harder to play,” he said.