Australia Weather News

Extreme summers in Australia are forcing some cricket associations to change playing conditions to deal with the heat.

"At 42 [degrees Celsius] we all pack up and have the day off," said Peter Kelly, Secretary of the Red Cliffs Cricket Association in the north-west corner of Victoria.

Mr Kelly says his association is bringing in new rules in response to last summer's extreme temperatures and the changing climate they are experiencing.

"We cracked the record last January, when we were looking for a cool change to be under 40C and we went for three consecutive days over 46C," he said.

"Never had anything like that.

"Couple of hot days was it, and now we're getting weeks of it."

The disruptions at Australian clubs come as a new report, Hit for Six, is released today at Lords in England about the impact of climate change and extreme heat on cricket.

The co-author, Dominic Goggins, said the report was pertinent for Australia, given that eight of the 10 warmest years recorded in Australia had occurred since 2005.

"There definitely do need to be firm policies on when it is deemed to be too unsafe to play cricket at the highest level," he said.

From this season, the Red Cliffs Association is looking to play shorter games, have longer drinks breaks and be prepared to call games off if the temperature passes 42C.

Extreme heat is now being seen in the same light as cricket's eternal nemesis: rain.

"A lot of the times we're actually referring back to what the rules are for rain, because we haven't had these extreme heats before," Mr Kelly said.

"They might [once have been] one day for the summer, but now they're consecutive days really from the end of December through to the second week in February — it's quite on the cards to be having 40C now."

This in an area already hit hard by drought. Some grounds, like the one at Tempy, are barren except for a flash of green around the carpeted concrete wicket.

"We want to play cricket, we love to play cricket and just that opportunity needs to be taken with some common sense," Mr Kelly said.

The Hit for Six report identifies Cricket Australia's heat policy as best practice in the area, parallel with Tennis Australia's heat policy.

"The whole of the cricket authority world needs to wake up to this problem," Mr Goggins said.

On Monday morning, Australian cricketer Beth Mooney was forced to retire hurt from a one-day international against the West Indies in Antigua because of heat stress.

Last year, England captain Joe Root retired hurt and was hospitalised during the Sydney Ashes Test as temperatures hit 43C. A "feels like" monitor at the ground showed a reading of 57C in the middle.

At the time, former Australian batsman Dean Jones, who famously scored a double century in Chennai while severely dehydrated, tweeted that cricket should be called off when temperatures pass 41C.

Cricket Australia's manager for sports science and sports medicine, Alex Kontouris, said heat stress could affect players quite considerably.

"It's quite a spectrum. It can initially have a bit of dehydration and it could just affect performance a little bit, but at the back end of the spectrum is full-on heat illness and heat exhaustion," he said.

In extreme situations, heat stress can result in death from circulatory collapse, increased gut permeability, inflammation and multi-organ failure.

Heat stress is experienced more often by batters than the fielding team due to protective clothing — pads and helmets — stopping the body from sweating and dissipating heat through evaporation.

Research done by the University of Portsmouth found that "a full day in the crease, given the shuttle runs you're required to make when you're running between wickets, can be the equivalent of running a marathon," Mr Goggins said.

"Imagine doing that in heat which can top 43C, 44C, which we've seen at times in Sydney."

Professional players have the benefit of health professionals on on standby to help them cope with heat and humidity.

"We know what their sweat rates are, we do sweat testing on them," Mr Kontouris said.

"It's very individualised. We test them before the game when it's hot to work out their hydration status. So, at the very elite level, there are a lot of things in place."

But that's not the case for junior and park cricketers.

Last year Cricket Australia released a heat risk tool.

"It gives an indication of the risk of heat-related issues," Mr Kontouris said.

"It takes into consideration the temperature, the humidity, wind and sun. And you can plug all these things into a tool and it predicts what the risk is going to be like."

The plan is to release the tool as a smart-phone app.

The Hit for Six report advises governing bodies to develop specific "climate for cricket" action plans including science based-policies to protect players, umpires and spectators from the risks of extreme heat.

"What we want is for all cricket boards to take this seriously," Mr Goggins said.

ABC