The pollution level in Delhi has caused a headache to Sri Lankan players as they were seen wearing masks yet again on Day 4 of the third Test against India at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium.
According to a report on The Week, the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) sent its doctor from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Dr AP Bhalla, Professor, Department of Anesthesia, Pain and Critical Care, to the Lankan dressing room for a medical check-up during the lunch break on the fourth day. The specialist had an interaction with ICC Match Referee David Boon on the levels of pollution in the city and risks associated with different levels of Air Quality Index (AQI).
Notably, the floodlights had to be switched on early morning due to poor visibility. Things got worse for the Lankans when pacer Suranga Lakmal vomited on the field after bowling just three overs during the first session of Day 4. The report further added that three Lankan players — Niroshan Dickwella, Roshen Silva and Lakshan Sandakan — underwent Oxygen tests. The Lankans were later asked to appear for further tests but they refused to show up. Despite the presence of the medical team at the stadium, the Lankans found it extremely difficult to play in prevailing conditions.
On Monday, the delayed arrival of the Sri Lankan one-day squad had set off rumours that Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had stopped the players from jetting off to New Delhi so that they can directly go to Dharamshala for the lung-opener. However, it was later revealed that there was a delay on part of SLC from sending the selected team for clearance from the sports ministry. The Lankan laws state that all sports teams representing the country need a mandatory approval by the sports ministry.
Sri Lanka also have received a lot of flak from commentators and fans over these four days for the way they reacted to the Delhi Test. Many questioned that why some of the Lankan players didn't wear the masks when batting and wore them only while fielding. Lankan coach Nic Pothas was asked if he felt the doctor had been sent to discredit their claims but he said, "It has nothing to do with me. We made a pact as a team that we will get on with it. It is what it is. It is not going to go away. I thought the guys showed great attitude through the day."
It was evident how the poor pollution levels in the capital had frustrated the Lankan camp. However, Pothas stated that the health risk aspect is something they don't have control over. "That is not for us to decide. Are people in discomfort? I think it speaks for itself. The rest we cannot control. We are professional. We stopped talking about it. It is not going to make a difference talking about it. The only thing we can do is go out and play. As I said, the guys did brilliantly today."
Former India opener and Delhi-born batsman Virender Sehwag voiced his opinion against the Lankans as he believes that it was a strategy to stop Virat Kohli from scoring a triple-ton. "The put up a good acting performance. It wasn't like the weather changed in the afternoon. It seemed it was a strategy to stop Virat Kohli from getting to 300. The Lankans should have made the decision beforehand whether they wanted to play or not," he was quoted by saying India TV.
Over in Pakistan, former captain and legendary all-rounder Imran Khan used the Delhi Test as an example for fans and players. "This should be a wake-up call for Pak," Imran tweeted. "Our children are at a huge risk because of dangerous pollution levels."