The unexpected visuals of Sri Lankan cricketers wearing face masks on the cricket field have returned to debate about hosting major sports in highly polluted New Delhi, where doctors are clearly vocal about the health risks due to smog. The doctors have also recommended cricket’s governing body BCCI to look over its rulebook following a Test match between India and Sri Lanka went ahead in the capital in spite of players breathing heavily for air and saying they were vomiting as well.
On the day three of the third Test, the air pollution at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium embarked to hit 18 times the World Health Organization’s safe level. The game had been stopped three times on Sunday as Sri Lankan players complained of illness, but umpires ruled the match would continue. The Indian Medical Association, however, criticized the decision and warned that playing in such condition puts athletes’ health at severe risk. The IMA President K K Aggarwal said that “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”. “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,” he added.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) declined to comment and it has blamed Sri Lanka of making a “big fuss”, pointing to Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who scored a double century in the same environment. On Monday, the US embassy website urged Delhi residents to “avoid all outdoor exertion” as concentrations of the smallest and most harmful airborne pollutants known as PM2.5 escalated to risky levels.