South Africa’s icy plans to beat UAE heat
Perhaps the only thing you can’t buy in a Dubai shopping mall is reality. Stroll through any one of the monstrous mazes and you can do anything from test driving a sports car to skiing down a slope of man-made ice. For the latter, you can even buy a fur coat if needs be.
“Can’t see these being big sellers in UAE,” Graeme Smith posted on Twitter, after spotting some of the fluffy, warm items through a shop window. Precisely.
But there is one kind of jacket that could become a must-have in these parts: the ice-vest. You’re unlikely to see it on any of the catwalks but if you’re tuned in to the cricket, look for it beyond the boundary. That’s where some of the South Africa players will be taking a minute or two to put it on and cool down while on the field against Pakistan.
The garment, as explained by spin-bowling consultant Claude Henderson, is simply “a jacket with ice inside it” but it is a bit more complicated than that. South Africa have been trialling a range of different articles, including neck pieces, discs and bandanas, some of which contain a freezable gel that assists in bringing body temperature down.
It’s not an entirely revolutionary concept – few things in fashion are – and fitness trainer Greg King said he has seen them worn by teams such as Australia and India in the past, but it is something South Africa are trying to perfect usage of as they head into what’s expected to be a hot series.
The average high for October in Abu Dhabi sits at 35 degrees Celsius. It has been mostly hotter for the time South Africa have been here. Sharjah went up to 40 degrees and although cricketers play in these conditions on occasion, they need to be watched carefully when they do.
“When the environmental temperature is hotter than the body or close to body heat, it becomes very difficult for your body to lose heat,” King said. “The temperature of skin is around 32 degrees so when it is close to that outside, the body will be generating heat and its mechanism for dispensing with it is made less efficient.
“If you get too hot, your body will tell you to slow down. You won’t be able to put in as much effort. And then you will not get guys bowling at 100%, they’ll be at 80%.”
South Africa want their players, particularly their fast bowlers, to be able to deliver at their maximum in this series. If they need to be kept on ice to do that, that’s what King is going to do. “When they are on the field, they can’t wear an ice-vest because it’s cumbersome and there are regulations about what you can and can’t put on so we’ve to experiment with when they come off the field and during drinks breaks,” King said. “It’s just giving the guys a minute or two of comfort.”
Dale Steyn was spotted donning the jacket on a few occasions during the practice match and a handful of other players had the neck-wear on. Robin Peterson though, had neither on and had not even heard of them until asked. “I don’t think I’ll need it, I’m ok in the heat,” Peterson said.
Like Peterson, most members of the South Africa squad have started to acclimatise. Smith said they are “feeling more settled” now than they were on arrival, when it was like “walking into a steam bath.” Having played in places King described as similarly hot and humid – Chennai, Kochi and even Durban – turning out in the UAE is not a task that should burn them out.
Still, they want to find different ways of managing the players’ response to extreme conditions and the latest wardrobe is one of them. Those who don’t have an interest in haute couture will be pleased to know new clothes are not the only way the emperors – according to the Test rankings at least – plan to overcome heat.
King also plans to resort to good, old-fashioned umbrellas on the side of the field where the players can get a spot of shade when needed. The officials have yet to rubber-stamp his request to position them at various places along the boundary but King said he will “try and push for four umbrellas around the ground.” He has revealed they are “more effective than any of the garments we have.” Now that’s a reality check indeed.