India cricket fans defy heatwave warning for IPL clash

Images published on the weekend showed Bollywood superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan sweating profusely while watching his team train


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Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Published: Mon 29 Apr 2024, 7:52 PM

Last updated: Mon 29 Apr 2024, 8:48 PM

Indian cricket fan Harshit Singal always jumps at the chance to watch a match — even when the worst heatwave in memory has brought the rest of sports-mad Kolkata to a standstill.

The colonial-era capital has sweltered through days of punishing temperatures afflicting much of South and Southeast Asia since last week.

The mercury on Monday afternoon soared above 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) for the third time this month, and the city's normally bustling streets have looked deserted at noon as its 15 million people do what they can to stay out of the sun.

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But the searing temperatures did not put off Singal and thousands of others from queueing up for the evening's Indian Premier League fixture.

"Despite the heat, I am a big fan of KKR. And I came here to enjoy the match," the 28-year-old told AFP. "The heat is so much... (but) it is part of the game to adapt to these conditions."

Despite the match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Capitals beginning after dark at the 66,000-seater stadium, the heat will remain a factor once the match commences.

Images published in local media on the weekend showed Bollywood superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan, the home team's beloved co-owner, sweating profusely while watching his team train in the nets.

Eden Gardens has already proved an endurance test for IPL cricketers in recent days, even for late matches.

England batsman Jonny Bairstow was drenched in sweat when he hit an unbeaten century in Punjab Kings' record chase of 262 against Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday night.

Local media reports said several fans had to seek medical attention for heat-related distress the prior Sunday following an afternoon match at the venue.

India is infamous for throwing up punishing conditions for cricketers throughout the year, including thick smog during the winter and near-unbearable heat in summers.

One 1986 match in the southern city of Chennai has since assumed a folkloric place in the Test pantheon because of the performance of late Australian cricketer Dean Jones.

The top-order batsman hit 210 while frequently stopping to vomit on the pitch through most of his innings due to dehydration, later saying he could not "remember a thing" after he reached 120.

Jones's epic innings was decades ago, but extensive scientific research has found climate change is causing heat waves to become longer, more frequent and more intense.

India last year reported its hottest and driest August since records began more than a century ago, and if April's weather is any indication, more records are set to tumble in the months ahead.

Much of India's eastern states and southern peninsula have remained under government heatwave alerts since last week, with relief not expected for several more days.

This year's heatwave coincides with ongoing national elections in India that have seen millions of people around the country line up at polling booths in temperatures north of 40C.

Turnout in India's election has so far been several percentage points lower than the last poll in 2019, and local media has speculated that higher-than-average temperatures were partly to blame.

Kolkata weather forecaster Soumendra Dutta told AFP that the heat felt in his city this month was already some of the worst in his lifetime.

He said the city's 41.7C day last Thursday equalled a 1980 record for hottest maximum April temperature.

"Heatwave conditions are likely to continue till at least Thursday," he added.


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