On Thursday morning, persistent rain led to no result in the Women’s T20 World Cup semi-final between England and India, knocking England out. Instead of having a reserve day in case of such circumstances, the team with the best group stage record advanced to the final.
This tournament will forever be one of ‘what if?’ for England, runners up two years ago, as they lost the chance to win the right to a rematch with Australia. The size of this prize cannot be understated – a game in front of a packed crowd for one of the crown jewels of the sport.
However, this is not the only match wrecked by the weather. Thailand, first time participants at the competition, amassed 150 in their twenty overs against Sri Lanka only for their best shot at their first World Cup victory to be snatched away from them by the natural elements.
The question remains if this will be an aberration or a harbinger of future disruption. Over the Australian summer, the match between the Adelaide Strikers and Sydney Thunder men’s teams in the Big Bash League was abandoned due to smoke from bushfires causing poor air quality.
The disruption to cricket has the potential to be far more existential than one-off impacts of bushfires or unseasonal rains. The unique nature of test (and first class) cricket, in particular, with consecutive days of hours fielding in the midday sun leave the formats vulnerable to increase in ambient temperature.
A report commissioned into the impact of climate change on cricket highlighted the potentially dangerous impact of increased temperatures in combination with high humidity given the extensive protective equipment worn at the crease.
A lack of available water is another threat. Given the heartlands of cricket include drought-prone locations such as areas in South Africa and India, it becomes harder to justify the quantities of water used to maintain outfields – not just at major venues but at club grounds too.
In 2016, against the backdrop of water shortages in the Maharashtra State region, just three Indian Premier League venues used around 60,000 litres a day. Given the broader picture of 3,228 farmers dying by suicide as a result of these droughts, it is unlikely that such excess can continue.
Another key risk is from extreme storms. When Hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the Caribbean, the damage was significant. On top of the devastation of private property, recreational areas were put out of use, robbing young players of a place to practise their craft.
The United Kingdom is not free from the effects of these risks – climate change has led to increased rainfall. A report in 2018 showed that wet weather has truncated a quarter of England’s home one-day internationals with 13,000 hours of all cricket lost in 18 years at Glamorgan.
England’s loss is minuscule in comparison to the devastation of floods, storms or bushfires. Yet for the millions worldwide for whom cricket is life, the importance of the fight with nature for the ability to play a much-loved game is only likely to grow.
Image rights: JokerDurden via Wikimedia Commons