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Sore throat to breathlessness: How air pollution has plagued sports in New Delhi

Be it cricket or football, New Delhi's air pollution has affected one and all, from forcing Sri Lanka players to vomit in the ground to making the then Delhi Dynamos' former coach complain about the quality of air.

Written by Shivam Saha |
Updated: November 3, 2019 3:54:28 pm
Bangladesh players wear masks during practice sessions. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

“It’s too late to do anything,” said newly-elected BCCI President Sourav Ganguly when asked about the poor condition of the air in the National Capital Region (NCR) and its potential impact on the series opener between India and Bangladesh.

Even as the air quality remained poor in the national capital and a public health emergency was declared, Bangladesh prepared to take on India in the first T20I at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Sunday. Multiple Bangladesh players were seen wearing masks while training on the ground ahead of the match.

However, this is not the first instance of pollution affecting sporting in the national capital.

December 2017: India vs Sri Lanka third Test 

Sri Lanka team wearing masks at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

In the winter of 2017 Sri Lankan players were forced to leave the pitch after poor air quality disrupted the third and final Test in New Delhi.

This was possibly the first instance of an international match being halted due to pollution, leading to a heated discussion on whether Delhi should be allowed to hold sporting events during winter.

Suranga Lakmal vomits during the fourth day of their third Test against India in New Delhi. (AP/File Photo)

Sri Lankan bowlers Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Gamage left the ground mid-way during overs due to breathlessness, while the former also vomited. Play was halted several times and as the conditions worsened the entire Sri Lankan team came out wearing masks.

December 2018: Siddhesh Lad takes on bowlers and pollution

Mumbai batsman Siddhesh Lad wears a mask while playing against Delhi in Ranji Trophy. (Express File Photo)

In 2018, Mumbai batsman Siddhesh Lad donned a mask when he stepped out to bat during the Ranji Trophy match between Delhi and Mumbai at the Karnail Singh Stadium. He wasn’t the only one affected by the conditions, as teammate Tushar Deshpande fell ill hours after arriving in the national capital.

During the match, several Mumbai players were seen wearing pollution masks in the dugout.

READ | Rohit Sharma injures left thigh, leaves training midway

In 2016, a Ranji match between Bengal and Gujarat at the Feroz Shah Kotla was cancelled due to smog.

October 2018: Delhi Dynamos blame pollution for its woes

Delhi Dynamos coach Josep Gombau. (Source: File) Delhi Dynamos former coach Josep Gombau. (Source: ISL)

Pollution also marred the Indian Super League (ISL) in the national capital as several foreign recruits – who were part of the Delhi Dynamos camp –  were affected by the poor air quality.

Addressing the media after a 2-0 defeat against NorthEast United FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi in October 2018, then Dynamos coach Josep Gombau said that foreign players are not accustomed to such poor conditions.

READ | Bangladesh learning to live without Shakib Al Hasan

“As foreigners, we are not used to the pollution. You can see players using masks. But we are training and I know it is not easy to adjust your body to the condition but we are working hard. We have not changed any tactic so far. We have been training normally so far,” Gombau had said.

Dutch footballer Gianni Zuiverloon, who has played professionally in England, Spain and Holland, had complaints regarding the conditions and had said that many of his teammates were also finding it hard to adjust.

FIFA U-17 World Cup 

FIFA had also raised concerns about pollution in the Indian capital and had excluded Delhi as a venue for the knockout matches at the Under-17 World Cup.

October 2018: Delhi half-marathon

A participant wears mask while taking part at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in New Delhi. (Reuters/File Photo)

Keeping in mind the drop in the quality of air post-Diwali, New Delhi’s half-marathon organisers hosted the event much before the annual festival, but it failed to bring any respite to the participants. Ultra-high frequency (UHF) radio waves were used to clear the air and it resolved the issue by almost 30 percent during the race.

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