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Kotla Test pollution woes: BCCI’s poor scheduling puts players’ health at risk

BCCI was left red-faced after the second day’s play of the third Test between Indian cricket team and Sri Lanka cricket team was halted briefly as many Sri Lankan players felt the effects of the haze and smoke at Ferozeshah Kotla

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Dec 03, 2017 20:46 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs Sri Lanka,IND vs SL,Kotla Test
Sri Lanka cricket team players wear anti-pollution masks on the field as the air quality deteriorated during the second day of their third Test against Indian cricket team at Frerozeshah Kotla stadium in New Delhi on Sunday. (PTI)

Pollution levels in Delhi hit alarming levels in November for the second year in a row and threatened to disrupt all outdoor activities, leave alone sports. Yet, the Indian cricket board scheduled the Test against Sri Lanka in the Capital for early December. Surprisingly, the schedule was made only in October. (Kotla Test, Day 2 highlights)

On Sunday, top BCCI officials were left red-faced after the second day’s play was halted briefly during the post-lunch session as many Sri Lankan players felt the effects of the haze and smoke that blocked the sun altogether for a while. (Kotla Test, Day 2 scorecard)

At one point, it appeared the Sri Lanka camp was reluctant to continue playing, before India skipper Virat Kohli’s declaration salvaged the situation and allowed the Test to continue. The series that has been sharply criticised by Kohli for burdening the players could easily have been tweaked to allot the final Test to another venue.

Instead, it has exposed players from both sides to health issues. Health experts had warned against outdoor activities during last month, when the air pollution was acute and even threatened the Delhi Half Marathon on November 19. Conditions improved but have dipped again in the last few days.

Four Sri Lanka players reportedly vomitted, causing concern in the visitors’ dressing room. The ICC match referee, David Boon, consulted a doctor before Sri Lanka were persuaded to continue playing.

Brushing aside

BCCI acting president, CK Khanna, though blamed the Sri Lankan team for making it an issue.

“A crowd of 18,000 people is there. Virat batted all along without a mask. All the spectators are there without wearing any mask. Most Indian cricketers and commentators are from places outside Delhi, but they are not wearing masks. I think Sri Lanka cricketers should focus on cricket,” he told Hindustan Times.

However, sports medicine specialist Dr Rajat Chauhan said, “It is not safe and not a good idea to host matches at this time. There should be no public events like cricket, golf and marathon. It is not just about 22 players but about the thousands who come to watch cricket. I think BCCI should ensure conditions are safe for play and schedule accordingly. There should have been no match in Delhi.”

Ranji matches affected

The BCCI could have learnt from the experience last year when two Ranji Trophy matches in November had to be abandoned without a ball bowled due to acute smog in the Capital. The ties between Hyderabad and Tripura and Bengal and Gujarat – the second match was scheduled at the Kotla – were cancelled.

“Our eyes were hurting the moment we’d go to the wicket. Medical advice was to not go out,” Vijay Patel, Gujarat coach, told Hindustan Times.

The Delhi Half-Marathon went ahead despite dire health warnings and after the organisers had watered the course to allow the dust to settle.

The alarm bells rang first when Sri Lanka pacer Lahiru Gamage pulled up clutching his chest, complaining he had problems breathing. Several Sri Lanka players were already wearing masks by then. At that time, around 12.30 pm, the AQI pollution readings at the nearby ITO junction indicated they were in the “very unhealthy” bracket.

Though play resumed and Sri Lanka removed R Ashwin and Virat Kohli, the second pacer, Suranga Lakmal also walked off not feeling well. Umpires Nigel Llong and Joel Wilson spoke to the captains. Later, Sri Lanka coach Nic Pothas as well as India’s Ravi Shastri walked into the field to talk to the umpires.

Two Sri Lanka support staff members had changed into whites and were ready to come in when Virat Kohli declared to help out.

First Published: Dec 03, 2017 19:35 IST