Dense smog over the capital prevented two Ranji Trophy matches from beginning on Saturday. Visibility was an issue at both Feroz Shah Kotla, where Bengal were to face Gujarat, and at Karnail Singh Stadium, where Tripura were to play Hyderabad, Saturday through Tuesday. The Bengal team asked for anti-pollution masks after several players experienced breathing difficulties and burning sensation in the eyes.
“After the warm-ups in the morning, players complained of burning sensation in their eyes. I have never experienced such a situation before in Delhi. It is unprecedented. Obviously, visibility was also a concern because of the smog,” Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary said.
As a precaution, the Bengal squad did not venture out of the dressing room after the morning warm-up.
The Bengal captain and his Gujarat counterpart Parthiv Patel walked out for the toss at 11.30 am — two hours after the scheduled time for play to begin. But they, as well as the umpires umpires Krishnamachari Bharatan and Virender Sharma, decided that the conditions — the lack of visibility and the uneasiness felt by the players — were not conducive for cricket.
The umpires and match referee P Ranganathan conducted frequent inspections through the day. But the smog showed no signs of lifting. At 3.50 pm, with the conditions still gloomy, the first day’s play was called off without a ball being bowled. The Hyderabad-Tripura Group C match at Karnail Singh Stadium too met with a similar fate.
Gujarat captain Patel said the umpires and match officials did the right thing by abandoning play. “Nobody can be blamed for what happened today. These things are beyond anybody’s control. Visibility was an issue for both teams, and hence there was no point in starting play,” he said.
Board of Control for Cricket in India secretary Ajay Shirke expressed helplessness over the situation.
“This is an environmental issue, so what can the BCCI do? Many years ago, a decision had been taken in the BCCI that matches wouldn’t be held in the North during the winter months. This was because of issues like smog and other environmental hazards. But for whatever reasons, the decision was not implemented. Today Ranji Trophy matches were affected due to smog. But what can we do? We have to treat this as something like a natural calamity.”
According to a board source, the match referees have been asked to submit reports, giving details of the situation.