“L”Like maximum cricketers, I simply need a non violent existence,” says Xeena Cooper, a member of Bristol’s Extinction Rebellion Cricket Club, hitting a ball round in Hyde Park within the spring sunshine. “I don’t want to feel guilty or anxious or uncertain about the future of the game.
“Cricket is the perfect vehicle for climate action, because the communities who congregate around cricket have our differences but we all share one thing, which is love. And the spirit of the game is exactly what we need to cherish and amplify at this point in history.”
The club are in London as part of the Big One, a long weekend of climate protest involving more than 200 groups and headed by Extinction Rebellion, who stepped back from their policy of civil disobedience at the start of the year. XRCC spent much of Friday afternoon once the rain had eased playing cricket on Parliament Square with an ever-changing gang of enthusiastic children.
Earlier in the week, another cricket fan with climatic fears stood up at Lord’s to speak at the annual Wisden dinner. Peter Frankopan is the professor of global history at Oxford University and author of the weighty new book The Earth Transformed, It is a history of mankind through a climate lens, and ends in a vision one reviewer described as “not so much pessimistic as quasi-apocalyptic”.
His Wisden speech laid out the challenges facing cricket as the climate crisis thunders towards us, with much of the cricketing world in its direct line of sight. Already this spring, Asia is frying under a record-breaking heatwave. Delhi reached a temperature of 40.4 degrees on Tuesday and six Indian cities crashed through the 44-degree barrier.
Climate scientists have also predicted that this could be the year where summer temperatures in India pass the wet-bulb threshold of 35 degrees – a measure incompatible with human life. Bangladesh, so often the weather’s punchbag, is also suffering. In Dhaka the highest temperature for 58 years was recorded, as road surfaces melted and the country suffered widespread power outages.
“I am one of a huge group of people who love cricket,” says Frankopan, “who feel like Henriette Ishimwe, the young Rwandan cricketer, who calls her U19 team that qualified for the World Cup her ‘second family’.”
In the most productive traditions of circle of relatives dinners, Frankopan passed out some plates of honesty within the Long Room at Lord’s, along the white linen desk cloths and chunky mustard bibles. “I tried to gently provoke. I spoke about mitigation, about health, about how heatstroke and dehydration present, about what we should be trying to do as a game.
“Reports have said that cricket will be the hardest hit of all the major pitch sports by the changing climate and it has become very obvious that some countries that play Test cricket are very exposed. Two-hundred-and-thirty-million people around the world live less than one meter above sea level, including nearly 75% of Bangladesh – and sea levels are rising.
“In the Caribbean, research suggests that hurricanes could be up to five times more likely if climate targets are missed; in Pakistan, almost 10 million people were displaced by the terrible floods of 2022. Some Test-playing countries have macro-economic problems that inevitably mean that cricket is played in a context of high levels of poverty and climate distress.
“Heat exposure isn’t just dangerous physically, it affects your cognitive function. There are solutions – day-night matches are one – which is fine if you’ve got floodlights but not if you are a club cricketer without advanced and expensive facilities.”
But what can the sport do to assist? “I believe you want to take a look at such things as who must be your sponsors – it’s not a really perfect glance to pick out a fossil gas corporate. We must put money into blank power, blank water, renewable power. We want to determine what our function is in portions of the arena which can be such the most important a part of cricket’s circle of relatives. I’d in reality welcome a right kind step down the wicket.
He is raring to indicate that warmth isn’t the one danger. “The wider degradation in south east Asia is horrible, the place moderate existence expectancy is one and a part years not up to it must be if the degrees of air air pollution have been inside protected limits. Normally you would suppose that elite sports activities other people would not be uncovered to scenarios which can be bad to their well being.”
Which in turn raises questions about how you ensure players are safe and how you insure them. “Presumably conditions that are hazardous to human health, such as last year when temperatures in the UK passed 40C, should concentrate a few minds. Is it safe to bat in such conditions; if so, for how long; if so, against what pace bowling, and so on?
He will not be in London this weekend, but appreciates XR’s cricketing efforts. “Protest is an important way of getting attention, although it is sometimes two steps forward, one step back, because you antagonize. But if your voices are not being heard, that’s what happens.”
For now, cricket continues its merry manner. IPL avid gamers’ hydration strictly monitored, ice packs ever-available. Outside the grounds, within the warmth of the day, the guide employee plows on.