At around 12:07 pm on Sunday, the 20,000-odd spectators at the Feroze Shah Kotla in Delhi witnessed an odd sight. The Sri Lankan team walked out to field with a majority of them wearing face masks.
It was an odd sight, not because Delhiites had never witnessed the scene before – they have, every day. Rather, it was odd because never before had we witnessed such a scene at an international sports venue in the capital.
International cricketers returned Monday for day three of the third Test even as air pollution at Feroz Shah Kotla stadium soared to hit 18 times the World Health Organization’s safe level.
Things took a strange turn a little later as play was held up for almost 15 minutes. The Sri Lankans, it seemed, didn’t want to play – the smog… the pollution was proving to be too much for their lungs. One of their fast bowler’s Suranga Lakmal had thrown up in the morning session and gone off the field. The other, Lahiru Gamage, wasn’t fairing too well himself.
The play had been disrupted three times on Sunday as Sri Lankan players complained of illness, but umpires ruled the match would proceed.
The Indian Medical Association condemned the decision, warning that playing in such conditions put athletes’ health at serious risk.
“This match should not have taken place in the first place. It is the time the ICC (International Cricket Council) comes up with a policy on pollution,” said IMA president K. K Aggarwal.
“You have fast bowlers, batsmen and fielders out there exposed to these very harmful pollutants over five days at a stretch. It takes a serious toll on your health in the long run.”
The sport’s governing body declined to comment.
Infact, Virat uploaded a awareness video regarding the increase of pollution in Delhi:
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) November 15, 2017
Despite the Smog, Indian skipper Virat Kohli hit a record sixth Test double century to which India’s powerful cricket board accused Sri Lanka of making a “big fuss”
Pollution levels generally rise during the winter in Delhi and across northern India and neighbouring Pakistan, fuelled by crop burning in the region and the fact that cooler air traps particulates close to the ground.
The smog has become especially alarming in the past two years, casting doubt on the future of sports events in the sports-mad swathe of South Asia.
The Test debacle in Delhi is not the first time cricketers have complained of air pollution in the capital, with Australia citing smoggy air following their loss to India in 1996.
The BCCI and the Delhi government should use this opportunity as a wake-up call to set things right and for once, not hide behind the mask of ignorance. The only masks truly needed today were the ones the Sri Lankans wore.
So what do you think Sri Lankan’s were really suffering from the pollution cause or it was just a strategy to disguise the Indian players from scoring more runs. Do leave your comments in the below section for the same.