India vs Sri Lanka: Visitors being ridiculed over their reaction to New Delhi air pollution is absurd

Over the years, many a times, cricket has been stopped for quite a few strange reasons. On Sunday, one more such reason was added in the list – air pollution.

Day Two of the third Test between India and Sri Lanka, being played at New Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla, saw many of the Lankan fielders coming out wearing mask, while many others complained of difficulty in breathing.

Sri Lankan coach Nic Pothas, later in the day, mentioned how his players were “coming off the field and vomiting” and there were oxygen cylinders in the dressing room to help players deal with this rather unique situation.

Not many, particularly in the Indian circles, saw eye to eye with the concerns from the Islanders.

BCCI president CK Khanna, in a statement that directly questions the credibility of the Lankan claims, said, “If 20,000 people in the stands did not have problem and the Indian team did not face any issue, I wonder why Sri Lankan team made a big fuss?”

Responses like this, along with others online who suggested the Sri Lankan players were ‘faking it’ as they didn’t want to play anymore, are for a want of a better word, complete rubbish.

First of all, these are not some gully cricketers, who are complaining about an issue so as to go back home and have a good night’s sleep. These are professional cricketers, who are in India to represent their country in one of its most revered sports. They might play badly, and sometimes stupidly as well, but questioning their intent behind wearing the anti-pollution mask is rather a new low.

There is a limit to how much can be made up. As if to dispel such vile notions, Pothas said that the match referee was in the change room on Sunday when Lakmal was vomiting.

Some argued, like Mr Khanna, that the Indian team faced no such difficulties when they bowled in the same conditions, therefore, the Lankans can’t complain. While this argument on the surface seems to make sense, it ignores the fact that no two individuals have the exact same threshold when it comes to bearing pain, cold and in this case, pollution. Everyone has a different limit of up to what extend they can tolerate something or not. One must have come across such a situation in their life, where one of their family members or friends is feeling extremely cold, while the others don’t quite feel the same. It simply doesn’t mean that they are faking it; it just means that the concerned individual has reached his or her threshold, and the same might have happened to the some of the Sri Lankan players on Sunday.

“Virat batted close to two days. He did not need a mask.”

You expect such statements from the online world, where such comments gratify a large section of the users, who in turn stamp their approval with likes and retweets.

But this is what India’s bowling coach B Arun said in the press conference on Sunday.

Granted Kohli batted for a long time — which although comes with its own challenges, isn’t the same as bowling, particularly fast bowling. Understandably, two of the players who were in most discomfort, Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Gamage, are fast bowlers.

Many would point out that out of the 243 runs that Kohli scored, only 100 runs were scored in boundaries, with the rest accumulated by scampering for ones and twos. But unlike fast bowling, where one runs up to the wicket in full velocity every single ball, the same can’t be said about the art of running singles and doubles in cricket, as players regularly just jog away for a single or double. Especially in Test cricket, while players do run the full throttle when it’s a tight single, generally, a simple walk down the other end is good enough for adding one more run to the total. So, comparing fast bowling and running between the wickets is not as straightforward as it appears to be.

Another point that might be relevant in this discussion is the relative pollution levels in the two countries. In Sri Lanka’s Colombo, for the last 48 hours, Air Quality Index (AQI) has been around 70, with 124 being the highest AQI recorded in the past two days. AQI in the range 51-100 is considered moderate, where the air quality is ‘acceptable’. In comparison, AQI in Delhi’s ITO, the area adjacent to the stadium, is close to 200 at the moment, with 381 the highest recorded AQI in last 48 hours. A reading ranging 151-200 is deemed ‘unhealthy’, with members of sensitive groups expected ‘to experience serious health affects’.

The above findings clearly give us an idea of the stark difference in the air quality. While Indian players, born and brought up playing in such conditions, have unconsciously attuned their bodies accordingly, for the Lankan, this has been a journey into the unknown.

It is alright to question the Sri Lankan cricket team over its dismal show in the series so far. Their players have looked jaded, bereft of ideas or executions, and barring that early burst in Kolkata, have continuously played second fiddle to the Indians.

But mocking and ridiculing the cricketers for airing (no pun intended) concerns about the pollution, is just not cricket.

Related Articles

Back to top button