Players suffering like this due to pollution not normal – PothasSri Lanka’s interim coach Nic Pothas speaks about the difficulties his players faced after being affected by pollution on the second day of the Delhi Test
There were players vomiting inside the Sri Lanka dressing room. There were “oxygen things” used. Eventually they were reduced to only 10 fit and able cricketers who could go out and field in the Delhi pollution when Virat Kohli declared India’s innings closed on 536 in order to “get on with the game”. India felt the stoppages in play, when the Sri Lankan medical staff looked after their players and match officials deliberated, were unnecessary and unfair.
It was a bizarre day’s cricket, played in the notoriously poor air of Delhi. After lunch, with Kohli set to give a maiden triple-century a fair go, and with India’s sights set on a mammoth total, at least five of Sri Lanka’s fielders came out wearing masks. About 20 minutes into the session, fast bowler Lahiru Gamage complained of respiratory problems, which resulted in a 17-minute stoppage. In the next hour, there were more complaints. When Suranga Lakmal went off the field to vomit inside the dressing room, Kohli, who was dismissed on 243 during this stop-start period, declared the innings closed. It was only 127.5 overs old.
Prior to that, India coach Ravi Shastri had come out and seemed to have a stern word with the umpires. “Ravi was pretty simple,” bowling coach B Arun said at the end of the day’s play. “He said. ‘Please get on with the game, don’t stop, you don’t need to stop. You take a decision, and just get on with the game.’
“I think the umpires and the match referee, they have a job on hand and it’s not up to the players to go and protest. They know what they are doing. When the play was unnecessarily being stopped, we just wanted to get on with the game because our focus is to win this Test match.”
Asked if, as a fast bowler himself, he felt any sympathy for the Sri Lankan seamers who were ill, Arun said: “Why should we? We are focused on what we have to do, and what we need to do in the Test match. I don’t think we need to be thinking about what the opposition does. It’s their lookout, and their problem to keep their bowlers fit.”
That was not the only dig at the Sri Lanka players. “Virat batted close to two days, he didn’t need a mask,” Arun said. “We are focussed on what we need to do, what we need to achieve as a team. The conditions are the same for both teams, we aren’t too bothered about it.”
When asked if a review was needed when it comes to playing in Delhi, because the air quality is not great for athletic activity, Arun said: “I think pollution is everywhere in our country. We are not too worried about the pollution. The BCCI schedules these matches, and our job is to go out and play and get the best out of our team. Focus is more on that.” Incidentally, Arun was the coach of the Hyderabad side last year, when their Ranji Trophy match against Tripura was called off due to heavy smog, along with the match between Bengal and Gujarat.
The air quality was much worse at that point. On Sunday, Kuldeep Yadav, India’s 12th man, wore a mask when he came on to the field with drinks in the first session. This was even before the first drinks break, when physio Patrick Farhart came on to check on Kohli’s back.