Bangladesh play Sri Lanka amid ‘very unhealthy’ pollution in New Delhi

Cricket World Cup match goes ahead despite appalling air quality in the polluted Indian capital.

Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews walks off the field after he was declared out
Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews walks off the field after he was declared out [Manish Swarup/AP Photo]

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka’s Cricket World Cup match in New Delhi was given the green light on Monday, as the smog-choked Indian capital was ranked as the planet’s most polluted major city.

The air quality has hovered between “poor” to “severe” in the capital, which has a population of 30 million, in the last few days.

The air quality index (AQI) near the Arun Jaitley Stadium read close to 400 on Monday noon, and it was 437 elsewhere in the city –  in the “very unhealthy” range – triggering speculation that the match might get delayed if not cancelled altogether.

An AQI of 0-50 is considered good while anything between 400-500 affects healthy people and is considered a danger to those with existing diseases.

Some players and coaches from both teams trained with face masks on the eve of the match at the Arun Jaitley Stadium. Earlier practice sessions were also cancelled while some Bangladesh players who have asthma were confined to their hotel.

Early in the Sri Lanka innings levels of the most dangerous PM2.5 particles – so tiny they can enter the bloodstream – stood at 184 micrograms per cubic metre according to IQAir, more than 12 times the daily maximum recommended by the World Health Organization.

The Swiss-based international monitoring company ranked New Delhi as the world’s most polluted major city on Monday.

According to the International Cricket Council (ICC) guidelines, air quality is usually assessed and considered by match officials and is treated as other weather matters.

Organisers have installed air purifiers in the players’ dressing rooms while water sprinklers were used to reduce pollutants in the air.

Pollution in New Delhi hit severe levels during a Test match in December 2017 when Sri Lankan players came out wearing masks after the tea break. Indian bowler Mohammed Shami vomited on the pitch.

Humayun's Tomb obscured by morning smog
Humayun’s Tomb amid the morning smog on the morning of the match [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

At Sunday practice, Sri Lanka team manager Mahinda Halangoda refused to rule out similar precautions in the game.

“Obviously, today when we came, we were wearing masks, and we were told to wear masks,” he said.

“But it depends exactly what the outside index is, and then we’ll make a call on it.”

Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha said the air quality “is not ideal”.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan won the toss and elected to bowl first in Monday’s game.

Bangladesh are out of the race for the semifinals while Sri Lanka only have a mathematical chance of making the final four.

Bangladesh have made one change with Tanzim Hasan Sakib coming in for Mustafizur Rahman, who is “not fit enough”.

Shakib said: “We have to be technically sound and also mentally sound”.

Sri Lanka made two changes with Kusal Perera and Dhananjaya de Silva replacing Dimuth Karunaratne and Dushan Hemantha.

Following the team’s poor performance in India, the entire cricket board was sacked and replaced with an interim committee earlier on Monday.

The two teams are fighting to qualify for the 2025 ICC Champions Trophy.

The top seven teams from this World Cup will gain entry into the tournament where hosts Pakistan will have automatic qualification.

Source: News Agencies