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Pat Cummins: BBC Green Sport Award winner on cricket’s ‘opportunity’

Cummins wins BBC Green Sport Athlete of the Year

Cricket can use its platform to make a difference in combatting climate change despite its “huge” carbon footprint, says Australia captain Pat Cummins.

Cummins, 30, was named Athlete of the Year in the BBC Green Sport Awards.

His Cricket for Climate Foundation aims to make cricket in Australia carbon neutral, and has plans to expand globally.

“Cricket is a sport that is dependent on the weather,” Cummins told BBC Sport.

“We sometimes play in conditions where it’s 50 degrees and you physically cannot perform to anywhere near where you want to be, and we’ve had games that have been called off due to a bushfire in the middle of summer.

“We’re also a sport that is prone to changing by a drop of rain. And the nature of international cricket means you travel around the world a lot, you have quite a high carbon footprint, so it’s always front of mind.”

Air travel is one of international cricket’s biggest contributions to climate change.

During the forthcoming World Cup in India, for example, England’s men will play nine group-stage games in eight different cities, all involving internal flights.

Players have no say on the sport’s schedule, but Cummins stressed the importance of using his platform to advocate for changes in other parts of life.

“Cricket has got a huge footprint, but with that comes a huge opportunity,” said Cummins, who will lead Australia at the World Cup.

“People look to sports for leadership and it can bring people together. You’re always going to run into people who would rather bury their heads in the sand but that’s OK. Hopefully we can change minds and show there is a path forward.

“Flying, unfortunately, is a side-effect of our job but I try to offset every bit of travel I do each year. No-one is ever going to be perfect, but we can all do something.”

It was reported last month that world governing body the International Cricket Council was working on a sustainability planexternal-link for the World Cup.

‘I was in an ice bath after two overs’

Reports on the impact of climate change on sportexternal-link predict cricket will be the hardest hit of those that use a pitch or field.

And the game is already seeing the effects from various weather patterns.

Cummins said a tour of Bangladesh in 2017 was played in the most eye-opening conditions he has experienced.

“We recently played a Test match in Delhi where we were basically wearing face masks to train in because the air was so dense,” he said.

“But in Bangladesh, it was close to 100% humidity, about 40 degrees, and you just can’t function.

“I like to think of myself as quite fit and I can bowl six, seven, eight overs in a spell. But two overs into a spell I had to leave the field and jump in an ice bath, it was that extreme.”

Through Cricket for Climate, Cummins has helped many grassroots cricket clubs in Australia reduce their carbon emissions through fitting solar panels and reducing their use of gas.

Despite the positive steps being taken in his homeland, he acknowledges supporting less-developed countries could become part of the foundation’s remit as it grows.

“We are lucky in Australia that we can afford to put solar panels on our roofs and they will work for us with all the sun that we get, but other countries are going to face different problems,” he said.

“Climate is not a sexy topic. But we want to be able to show that we’ve made a difference, and that it’s not just about words. Now, we want to go big scale and make big difference.”

Cummins said he found the future “scary” at times, but also had hope for the planet and for his young son Albie, adding becoming a father contributed to his climate activism.

Changes are being made around the world. In England, for example, Edgbaston’s Go Green game at the beginning of September showed what can be done at big sporting events.

But it may not be happening quickly enough.

“I think we can always move faster and I think it’s up to us to show that,” said Cummins.

“Everyone has to get a move on. A lot of these solutions, we can do today – so there’s no point waiting.”

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