India game, Delhi’s air leave Sri Lankans reeling — again

India opener Shikhar Dhawan said he understands the Lankans’ predicament but felt the air was not bad enough to stop play.

Written by Vishal Menon | New Delhi | Updated: December 6, 2017 9:03 am
At least seven Sri Lanka players were seen wearing masks during India’s second innings. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

FOR THE third successive day, Delhi’s poor air quality affected Sri Lanka’s cricketers at the Feroz Shah Kotla with fast bowler Suranga Lakmal vomitting on the field half-an-hour after play began on Day Four of the Test match against India.

Towards the end of play, Indian fast bowler Mohammed Shami, too, was seen vomitting on the field. At least seven Sri Lanka players were seen wearing masks during India’s second innings which lasted 52.2 overs on Tuesday. With a day to go for the match to end, the Lankans were struggling at 31 for three, still needing a stiff 410 to win.

The venue doctor examined Sri Lankan players Niroshan Dickwella, Roshan De Silva and Lakshan Sandakan, along with Lakmal. The visiting players also used oxygen cylinders while in the dressing room.
However, Sri Lankan coach Nic Pothas indicated that the doctor’s visit didn’t change anything as it was clear that the players continued to be affected.

“I am not a doctor so I have no idea what these tests tell you. What were we testing? Why were we testing? It doesn’t make anything go away… We even saw Shami struggling, so the situation was not much different for the two sides,” Pothas said.

Mohammed Shami was seen throwing up at Feroz Shah Kotla. (Screengrab)

At 9.30 am Tuesday, the Feroz Shah Kotla was engulfed with a thick blanket of haze. Visibility was poor and the floodlights were turned on. The Air Quality Index (AQI) was around the 380 mark, marginally better than Monday’s average of 400 but still in the ‘very poor’ category. To put that number in perspective, the AQI in Colombo was around the 55 mark, and just 9 in Adelaide, which is currently hosting the Day-Night Test between Australia and England.

Seeing Shami break down, columnist Harsha Bhogle tweeted: “Oh dear in the midst of an excellent spell, Mohammad Shami is throwing up too.”

India opener Shikhar Dhawan said he understands the Lankans’ predicament but felt the air was not bad enough to stop play. “Maybe, the Sri Lankan players are not used to it, but then so are many of my teammates. Not all of them are from Delhi. You’ve got to get on with your job, that’s my view. Of course, it may be that it’s troubling them. I can’t deny there is pollution in Delhi,” said Dhawan, adding Shami would bowl on Wednesday.

Former Sri Lanka batsman, Russel Arnold, who is a commentator for the host broadcaster, said the situation was “unique”. “This is the first time such a thing is happening on a cricket field. So, even the umpires and match referee did not know how to react to it. But there is a genuine problem. You can feel it. My family, including my children, were supposed to come to Delhi. But I warned them against travelling,” he said.

On Sunday, play was stopped twice, with the Lankans complaining of uneasiness due to “poor air quality”. In the post-lunch session, they didn’t have enough players to field, and five of them took the field wearing masks. On Monday, a couple of reserve Lankan players were seen wearing masks.

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