Episode 73: Tanya Aldred and the global pressure to save cricket from climate change

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller launched a podcast early in 2020 to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They’re no longer deprived of cricket, but still chat regularly about cricket topics with different guests each week – cricket writers, players, administrators and fans – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

Tanya Aldred has become one of Britain’s most respected cricket writers, contributing notably to  The Guardian, The Cricketer, Wisden Cricket Monthly and many other media. She is a co-editor of The Nightwatchman, the publication which showcases the best cricket writing every quarter. For the past three years, she has contributed one of the most significant sections of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, on cricket and the environment. She is the guest of Peter Oborne and Richard Heller on their latest cricket-themed podcast.


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After her penetrating analyses in Wisden of cricket and climate change, the threat to cricket from extreme heat and toxic air and cricket’s carbon footprint, Tanya confirms that she is preparing another environmental section for 2022. However, the strict code of pre-publication omertà by the Editor, Lawrence Booth, precludes her from revealing the topic. Lawrence has been highly supportive of the section and has himself written regularly about environmental issues and cricket. 2-3 minutes

She dwells on the risks to the health of cricketers from playing outdoors in cities with toxic air, especially but not exclusively in the Indian sub-continent. Top international players have to breathe this deeply, in intense activity, over up to five days, but there are also special risks to the oldest and youngest recreational cricketers. In London, Surrey CCC are trying to mitigate the emissions of the heavy constant traffic near the Oval with a planting programme. However, the ECB’s environmental programme was delayed by the pandemic and the ICC has shown no leadership on environmental issues at all. 3-6 minutes

Recently, Tanya surveyed the variety of environmental threats to cricket in each of the twelve finalists in the recent T20 World Cup. In England, the heat threat had received most attention, in forcing on the MCC the startling new policy of allowing Members to remove their jackets in the Pavilion. But in her view the greatest threat to English cricket, especially recreational cricket, is exceptional rainfall. Last season it had caused thousands of cancelled matches, and left recreational pitches with problems beyond the capabilities of their volunteer carers. The growing substitution of artificial pitches has had mixed and complex impacts on the environment. 8-11 minutes

She notes how the carbon footprint of cricket has been increased by the proliferation of tours and competitions making cricketers fly overseas (and support staff, media and other accompaniments). Many tours last only a few days and even at the highest level tours are increasingly abbreviated to two Test matches. However, it would be an invidious task for any authority to decide who has the right to tour (including women, disabled cricketers, veterans and young cricketers, teams from new cricket countries) and to limit the earning opportunities of top cricketers with short careers – particularly since all the present travelling cricketers in the world have a minute carbon footprint compared to say, business travellers. However, there was certainly scope to eliminate pointless short tours. It would also be very valuable to survey international cricketers’ own preferences about travel and touring during the year. 5-6 minutes; 11-16 minutes

Tanya highlights some cricketers who have become involved in environmental issues, mostly up-and-coming ones, such as Joe Cooke of Glamorgan CCC, rather than present or past stars. However, she also cites the Australian male and female cricketers who have supported the “Cool Down” initiative of former rugby international David Pocock, including the new men’s captain Pat Cummins and Rachel Trenaman. Shane Warne has sat on an MCC committee on climate change and cricket. In India, she mentions Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh. In Pakistan, she notes Wasim Akram’s involvement in campaigns to clean up plastic waste and Imran Khan’s strong emphasis on his environmental record in both provincial and national government. 17-22 minutes

Tanya accepts the offer of a commercial for  her online pressure group, @theNextTest. 22-24 minutes

She describes her journey into becoming a cricket writer from teamaker and copier at Wisden Cricket Monthly, paying tribute to the support and mentorship she received from its editor, Tim de Lisle, and citing the value of learning to speak to people over the telephone. She believes that the arrival of women such as Donna Simmonds and Alison Mitchell in the commentary box was a major development which led the cricket world to accept women as reporters and analysts of cricket. Press boxes have become much more welcoming not only to women but also to all new entrants: she names some of her nicest colleagues.  24-33 minutes

She gives an account of her (modest) career as a player and her current role as a cricket mother, highlighting the role of clubs such as her daughter’s (Didsbury) in giving opportunities for children, especially girls, denied them in state secondary schools. She also praises softball cricket for giving access to the sport to children who might be deterred by the risks of a hard ball and the cost of equipment. 34-36 minutes

Tanya wrote a powerful piece some months ago about three Afghan women cricketers who felt threatened by the return of the Taliban. She analyses the problems of getting reliable information about the state of cricket – and women – in Afghanistan and the risks of making the situation worse through the wrong response. 37-43 minutes

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Peter Oborne & Richard Heller

Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Oborne & Heller cricketing partnership

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast is produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.

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