Pollution stopped play for 20 minutes on Sunday, 3 December in the third Test between India and Sri Lanka at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium. Visiting coach Nic Pothas had pointed out that the smog was extreme that it compelled the Sri Lankan players to wear masks; some of them were even vomiting.
The game was resumed in spite of the Sri Lankan protesting twice about the persisting pollution in the air. Also, the team was short on fielders as pacemen Lahiru Gamage and Suranga Lakmal returned to the pavilion as they were feeling sick. Virat Kohli had to declare the innings on 536 for seven to get the visiting fielders off the ground after the third stoppage.
The Board Of Control For Cricket In India, however, has been annoyed at the reactions by the Sri Lankan cricket team. BCCI Acting President, C K Khanna reportedly said, “If 20,000 people in the stands did not have a problem and the Indian team did not face any issue, I wonder why Sri Lankan team made a big fuss. I will need to talk to the secretary and ask him to write to the Sri Lanka Cricket.”
But the smog did not just affect the Sri Lankan players contrary to what the Indian fans would like to believe. Today on the fourth day of the test series, right hand bowler, Mohammed Shami was seen holding his chest and throwing up, just after taking a wicket. The bowler was changed with spinner Ravindra Jadeja in the next over. The reason for Shami’s sickness remains unknown, but it again shifts the focus on smog in Delhi.
A ‘fuss’ or not – that is the question
Indian cricket fans have accused the visiting team of being melodramatic over nothing. But even Indian bowler Kuldeep Yadav wore a mask as he brought drinks to teammates on the field.
If indeed Delhi's air quality worsens today, as some forecasts are suggesting, it might affect play again. Remember this is not my-team-vs-your-team, this is about playing conditions
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) December 4, 2017
Doctors however have pointed out that Delhi is in no position to host such events. Cricket coaches in the city feel that wearing masks is not practical and advised to reschedule matches or practices on days when the air quality is particularly bad.
Indian Medical Association president KK Aggarwal had pointed out, “This match should not have taken place in the first place. It is time the ICC comes up with a policy on pollution.”
The National Green Tribunal too has rebuked the Delhi government for not taking necessary actions in spite of knowing that the air quality in Delhi is at its worst.
Not the first time
The severity of the air pollution and dense smog cover in Delhi on 6 November, 2016 had led to the cancellation of the Ranji Trophy match between Bengal and Gujarat at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on the second day itself. This was a first time incident in Ranji Trophy when a match was cancelled due to pollution levels.
The players had complained of burning sensation in eyes and breathing troubles during the practice sessions.
Delhi’s air quality – a serious concern
Delhi has been in the news for the last few months due to the blinding smog that has been engulfing the city. Visibility was reduced to few metres and schools and colleges were closed down due to the smog.
The low visibility severely affected the traffic in the city as well.
On the day of the match, the Air Quality Index of Delhi was very poor with PM 2.5 level measured at 316 by aqin.org. The safe PM2.5 limit is considered to be between 51 and 100.but Sri Lanka was experiencing an air quality index far below than this.
Air Quality Index in #SriLanka is around 59 (PM2.5) and In #Delhi it is over 400 (PM 2.5), so stop blaming #SriLankateam for embarrassing India, rather work on the issue which has actually choked Public life. Even NGT questions holding match unders such circumstances #INDvSL
— Tawqeer Hussain (@tawqeerhussain) December 5, 2017
This level of pollution is equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day and can cause severe respiratory troubles. It can reduce our lifespan to 20 hours/day.
West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee has said that it is shameful how a visiting team is playing an international game wearing masks.
Considering the statistics, should not we worry about the dirty and polluted air that we are breathing rather than getting offended when a visiting cricket team is falling sick by inhaling that air?
But no. We have more important issues to talk about – like whether a movie can make a fictitious woman look less honourable, or what should be the amount of the bounty to behead an actor.
So, we prefer to joke about how the visiting team from Sri Lanka could not adjust to our toxic air and ended up wearing masks and puking on the fields. But, wait dear cynic Indian, even your home team is suffering due to the polluted air and the toxic smog!
At least now, can we urge the government authorities to take serious steps to deal with this burgeoning problem and not take this environmental calamity to be our fate?