Set in the increasingly hot Indian Summer, the IPL faces a climate change challenge. From being a test of cricketing skills, it will have to add a test of surviving the heat, considering the temperatures at which some matches have been played. And seeing the trend, it could only get worse. For the league, which had to shift matches out of Maharashtra back in 2016, due to a drought in the state, the challenge is ongoing, and it needs to do more to fight it.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) cricketers wore a green jersey during IPL match in Mumbai on May 8 to express concern over the scorching statistics of recent weeks. In a sign of how far the heat has permeated the bubbles of the ten IPL teams, Virat Kohli said in a video shared on Twitter before RCB’s winning game on 8 May,
“Climate change is on our doorstep, and it’s our responsibility to take care of the only planet that we call home,”.
Leading bowler Jasprit Bumrah’s newly wed bride Sanjana Ganesan responded, “Holy moly! My husband is 🔥🔥🔥”, adding to the spectacle.
The worst heatwaves in 100 years have swept across India, shooting average maximum temperature in April past 37.8C – the highest since records began in 1901 -.and is set to climb to 47C in New Delhi again this weekend, lingering in the mid-30s in Mumbai. The heatwave has given a shape to new tactics in IPL tournament. The decision of a match rests on the toss of an innocuous coin flipped high in the air by a passive umpire with his finger. Whichever team wins the toss on weekend games – which start at 3.30pm – is sure to choose to bat first, sparing its men a brutal afternoon fielding under the sun. Keeping 11 of your players from being “completely cooked” for the second half of the game not only makes sense but also helps lift morale.
Keeping hydrated is, in all seriousness, key to beating the heat. The critical hydration for the RCB players comes well in advance of the game. Their drinking is monitored 24 hours before stepping out, under the watchful eyes of physiotherapists and doctors. Celebrated as the religion of die hard fans, cricket has the ear of its fans in a powerful way, and an ability to sway the public discourse.
Cummins is one international cricketer using his platform, and the diagnosis of his sport to make the case for a wider cure. “Like all Australian athletes, we cricketers try to punch above our weight on the world stage. And with the incredible resources we have to hand, we want to do that on climate too,” he wrote in the Guardian. “Few countries in the world can match Australia’s extraordinary potential to generate renewable energy like solar and wind power – we think this is a win-win for our game and for the environment.”
There is a growing sense that on whatever stage cricket is played, it can’t help but shine a light on the climate crisis. RCB’s annual ‘Go Green’ day sees players don green shirts to raise awareness about steps to curb climate change, in a competition watched by 229 million TV viewers in the league’s opening week. The game may have changed its course to cope with the sweltering heat ahead of the IPL final on May 29. Whichever team lifts the trophyat the end of this month, it will not be of much worth without quick and meaningful wins for the planet too.
So what could the IPL do about it? For starters, every stadium matches are played in needs to be as sustainable as possible, in terms of its energy use, water use. The sight of the large solar panel set up at the Brabourne stadium and the Wankhede has done more to bring solar power awareness than many government messaging.
Teams could set an example by auctioning off memorabilia for funding climate linked causes in their own states, and beyond. Ideally, adopt a cause each. For starters, those RCB t shirts worn for a single match could be a good start perhaps.