Heatwaves, droughts and storms made more likely by climate change are already hitting cricket and risks to the game are predicted to rise, a report warns.
A rise in heat and humidity poses risks to players, umpires and spectators, while drought could hit the grass pitches the sport relies on.
And although rain did not stop play to save England from its Ashes defeat at the weekend, a rise in heavier and more erratic rainfall patterns in places such as the UK is washing out many games, while flooding hits pitches and facilities.
The “Hit for Six” report, which has been briefed to the World Cricket Committee, recommends moves such as allowing players to wear shorts in hot conditions, developing helmets, gloves and pads that keep players cool and more hydration breaks.
With many of cricket’s two billion fans and legions of amateur players – from India to the Caribbean – on the frontline of rising temperatures and extreme weather, the report also urges the sport to do more to help halt climate change.
The study warns that the heat impacts of a day at the crease for an international batsman can be compared to running a marathon wearing gloves, helmet and pads.
Rising temperatures and humidity could lead to more games being postponed and rearranged cooler times of the day, poor performance and increased likelihood of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Prof Mike Tipton, from the University of Portsmouth and one of the report’s authors, said: “Above 35C the body runs out of options to cool itself and for batsman and wicketkeepers even sweating has limited impact as the heavy protective cladding creates a highly humid micro-climate next to their bodies.
“It’s not the average temperature increase that climate change is bringing that is worrying, but the extremes of heat combined with high humidity.”
He added: “Particular care must be given to young players and the grassroots of the sport where elite-level cooling facilities simply aren’t available.”
Prof Tipton said the the UK would not see the same level of threat from heat compared to places such as India and Australia.
But he warned: “A still day with bright sunshine and high temperatures could still be troubling for a batter who is not acclimatised to heat and struggling to evaporate sweat under heavy protective clothing.”
In a country-by-country assessment, the report warns that rain has hit England internationals while Storm Desmond, which was made more likely by climate change, caused severe flooding at more than 50 community clubs.
Sea level rises and more intense hurricanes threaten the West Indies, droughts have hit the game in South Africa, and rising heat and humidity in Sri Lanka will make it ever tougher to play cricket there.
The report recommends cricket authorities bring in heat safety rules, specific guidelines for young people, work on water efficiency to avoid conflicts over shortages, invest in clean energy and even consider a climate disaster fund to help communities hit by storms, flooding and heatwaves.
Russell Seymour, chairman of the British Association for Sustainable Sport (BASIS) and sustainability manager at Lord’s Cricket Ground, said: “This is a wake-up call not just for cricket, but for all sport.
“For every player suffering, there are many more fans having to work and go about their daily lives in these increasingly harsh conditions.
“Sportspeople are not by nature bystanders and we can and must react to avoid the crises approaching us.”
He added: “At Lord’s, we have set out on that journey switching to 100% renewable wind energy, but there is much more for us all to do.”