Skin in the Game

Men in Blue

Today is an important day for every Indian everywhere — I wish this were a subject of lesser import but the fact is it is the cricket world cup and our men in blue are in the semi-finals with Australia going down in Sydney in their home field! Home field advantage is a big deal in cricket — if I were less jingoistic, I would admit to its role in India’s victory in the last world cup but I am who I am and it is crazy that this sport of cricket channels that rare streak of an Indian national identity — we are a nation born out of a non-violent struggle but the blood we didn’t shed in our independence struggle we saved for the cricket grounds — think of the relative scale and intensity of IPL vs the calm of county cricket. And today is one of those butterflickering gutty days.

The last semi we were this worried we were playing Pakistan and here is what I thought

“I was at work in London when India beat Oz and followed the match with you (and as I try to follow winning routines, I’m doing it again) — now I’m at home in Madras and hopefully Mumbai for the big week. Every screen has the match on and my parents are so stressed about the result they are taping as it is simply too emotionally charged. The whole country is in suspense — restaurants shut, doctors are out — you can smell everyone bleeding blue!”

I am superstitious about cricket and will only follow the Telegraph live blogs but I can’t ignore the pri-occupation and decided to write about cricket skin-care because of its particular resonance to me. Growing up, I first became aware of sunblock only by watching Australian cricketers with their mysterious white paint on their faces that I imagined was to intimidate us and my aunt who lives in Sydney brought me my first sunscreen and educated me about the ozone layer — intercultural heliophobia. It’s amazing how some things just stay with us into adulthood and these are the ways in which I think the gentleman’s game of cricket can get more skin-friendly since even one-day cricket is hours and hours in the sun which does noone any favours — see A Raisin in the Sun.

  1. UPF entire uniforms not merely collars — what’s great about cricket uniforms is that unlike football and rugby they are at least wearing trousers so there is a modicum of coverage where people are least likely to wear sunscreen — the legs. While most athletic clothing is au fait with sweat-wicking (wait for a separate post on my inevitable Lululemon review) why they haven’t incorporated performance materials into cricket uniforms more comprehensively is beyond me especially for a game like cricket with the extended sun exposure — the Indian uniform by Nike while it has Dri-fit etc has only a sun protection collar and is not completely made of UPF material. Ultraviolet Protection Factor — UPF is to clothing what SPF is to sunscreen and I think a UPF of 50 is a worthy skinnovation for the next generation.
  2. Increase Hat size and fit — We have to consider that the age of cricket whites with little flannel vests are quaint these days and they were in way quite practical in keeping players cool — retro-sunsible ☺ But when I look at some of these other uniforms like the Blackcaps I just get worried that we are doing very little to protect outdoor athletes. This is not a major issue for the batsmen and the wicket-keepers with their sturdy helmets but think of the bowlers and fielders who outnumber the others — these very black caps could easily be made of UPF certified textiles apart from merely being sweat-wicking (which I hope for the players’ sake they are) and a little larger for the day games.
  3. Take Skin breaks — I do not want to get into the importance of broad spectrum sunscreen in protecting everyone from the sun because this is a subject that I get worked up about and will thus be a story for another day but let’s consider the length of the game of cricket — test matches for all their drawn out nature were not as intense as ODI games and what we have given up is those civilised breaks for lunch and tea that let us chat with the dreamy players as we watched the game. Yes it’s ODI but let’s prompt the players to reapply sunscreen — this not only helps them but sets a brilliant example for children all over the world obsessed with cricket. They should also be using gentler microfiber towels to dry off rather than terry but I will settle for sunscreen reapplication during these skin breaks for them to hydrate and be fresh for the next over.
  4. Make all games Night Games — when the games are not played in India the majority of the audience for cricket is international — why not just have floodlit games and avert the whole sun exposure to begin with? We did this in India for the world cup and it would be great if all the games were held this way — I know I am pushing the boundary but the best suncare is avoiding the sun and especially in the Antipodes with the thinning ozone layer they just shouldn’t ever play in the day time. Just saying.

I feel so often as my fellow Madrasi Indra Nooyi did when she said the following when I am accused of being indifferent to sports but with ESPN streaming and live blogging things are changing for the better.

When I came to America in 1978, I was a huge sports fan — the problem was, my sport was cricket. Shockingly enough, no one wanted to talk cricket with me!

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