Coconut water, ice collars, lighter kits
Teams bracing for a “difficult but not impossible” time as temperatures expected to rise to 40 degrees Celsius during the day
Coconut water, ice collars and vests, and more breaks. Those are just some of the ways in which Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchises will combat the extreme weather conditions the players are set to face in Abu Dhabi in June.
UAE has never hosted elite cricket at this time of year due to the summer heat, with nearly all high-level competitions played during the winter and spring months. But the lack of a more feasible window to play the remainder of the PSL’s games postponed from March meant there were few other choices.
With the forecast expected to rise to about 40 degrees Celsius during the day, most of the games will be played at night, when the weather is cooler. However, six double-headers are scheduled, which will mean day games starting by 5PM at the latest, when the mercury still hovers around 35 degrees Celsius most days. The night games, while lower in temperatures, will see increased humidity, somewhere between 50% and 65%.
“This will be difficult but not impossible,” Mohammad Akram, Peshawar Zalmi head coach, told ESPNcricinfo. “We all are working on making plans for how to cope with such conditions, especially fast bowlers. We have a strategy to use coconut water as much as we can to maintain body temperature. We need to keep the boys hydrated and avoid the risk of cramping. Since most of the games will be played at night, we are not worried about heat strokes.
“It’s more about how we combat the humidity. Hence, the use of coconut water helps us against the risk of losing electrolytes from the body. I am not sure if more than two or three extra breaks are feasible in between the innings but we plan to supply coconut water at the boundary especially for the bowlers.”
Aqib Javed has played in the UAE, as well as coached the national side from 2012-2016, to understand the effect this kind of heat can have on the body. He said that June, while not ideal, was manageable.
“In June, the nights aren’t as hot as the days – the temperature drops and the sea breeze allows you to settle,” Javed told ESPNcricinfo. “The boys in Pakistan are used to coping with some challenging conditions. The only worry is the first innings in the first games that will start around 5PM, but once the sun goes down they will cope.”
Javed did acknowledge the heat could pose extra challenges when it came to player performance.
“Fitness is important as usual and players have attained the highest level of fitness these days. But still, the idea of having short breaks every seven overs can be handy. But we don’t know what to expect right now. But everyone is a professional and everyone will come prepared about every aspect of the game. Normally I would suggest teams should have come two weeks earlier to acclimate with the conditions but with the tight schedule that’s tricky.”
Franchises are investing in ice vests for their players to wear on the field and there has been talk of using lighter material for team kits. When negotiations were on last week between the PCB and Abu Dhabi authorities and it looked as if the season may be postponed, talk had turned to moving the league at the last minute to Dubai instead. One of the advantages Dubai was citing was its stadium, built in such a way that it provides a fair degree of shade during the day; Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed stadium, by contrast, is open air.
August is generally considered the hottest month of the year in Abu Dhabi though it has seen top-flight cricket during that period. Australia played three ODIs in the last week of August 2012, against Afghanistan and Pakistan in severely debilitating conditions; in the last of those three games Mitchell Starc had to leave the field mid-over suffering from the humidity. The ODI began at 6pm local time and finished at nearly 230am the next morning. Most famously, Australia and Pakistan played two Tests in Sharjah in October in 2002, when players said the temperatures reached 50 degrees during the day.
The PSL is set to resume on June 1, with the final planned for June 20.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent