Sri Lanka players wear mask during Day 2 of third Test    AFP
Sri Lanka players wear mask during Day 2 of third Test AFP

The second day’s play of the third and final Test between India and Sri Lanka saw players wearing masks for the first time in international cricket. Delhi’s “poor air quality” led to stoppage of play for a short period as Sri Lankan players were in discomfort. It would be interesting to see how far the final Test will go, but one thing is clear: India and Sri Lanka are not on the same page in relation to pollution.

Sri Lanka’s perspective

“Obviously, it is well documented that Delhi has high level of pollution. They had got extremely high at one point, we had players coming in at one point and vomiting. There were oxygen cylinders in the dressing room. It is not normal for players to suffer in that way while playing the game. The bowlers obviously were struggling. Suranga [Lakmal] and Lahiru [Gamage]. The match referee was in our change room when Suranga was vomiting. Doctors were in there as well. Dhananjaya de Silva was vomiting. It was tough. You rely on doctors to give you medical advice because you are not medical people.

When it is a new situation for everybody, it is not easy to make decisions. I feel for the umpires, and I feel for the match referee. But the job of myself and the [team] manager is to make sure that the players are safe. That’s all what we do.

The captain wanted to speak to me (Nic Pothas). We had only ten people at one stage as there were not enough people to get on the field. The umpires were very clear where they were coming from. I don’t envy them. Their position was tough as well. There aren’t too many rules written on pollution.”

India’s perspective

“Virat [Kohli] batted close to two days, he didn’t need a mask.I think pollution is everywhere in our country. I don’t think we were too worried about pollution. The BCCI scheduled this match and our job is to get the best out of our team. Focus is more on that. We are focussed on what we need to do. The conditions are the same for both teams, we aren’t too bothered about it.

Why should we [show pity towards Lankans]… 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, their problem to keep their bowlers fit.

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 was to do well and win this Test match.”

Author’s take

On Sunday, both sides’ coaches, Pothas and Ravi Shastri, were involved in some talks with the umpires. Shastri looked annoyed at the delays, and was agitated. If the air quality improves and the sun comes out, there will be no reason to cancel play. On the other hand, if it doesn’t and doctors say that the conditions are unfit to carry on with the match, match referee David Boon will take the call.