The opening match in India’s upcoming T20I series against Bangladesh is under threat because of concerns about the levels of air pollution at the Feroz Shah Kotle Stadium in Delhi, ahead of the game scheduled for November 3rd.
In December 2017 a test between India and Sri Lanka on the same ground was continuously interrupted with players repeatedly vomiting due to hazardous pollution levels in the Indian capital. Air pollution levels 15 times the limits set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) forced Sri Lankan players to take to the field wearing face masks, whilst bowlers Lahiru Gamage and Suranga Lakmal had to leave the field with breathing difficulties.
Whilst toxic smog affects much of the north of India all year-round, it becomes worse during the winter months, often reaching hazardous levels. The situation forces the authorities to shut schools when pollution levels are particularly high, whilst breathing in the air on such days has been likened to smoking 50 cigarettes a day.
Delhi’s extremely poor air quality has been blamed on a combination of factors – road dust, open fires, fumes from vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, and the burning of crop residues in neighbouring states. The city is also vulnerable to dust storms that originate in the Gulf.
Despite that, the rotation policy of grounds followed by the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) forced them to schedule this match for Delhi, and they are hoping that the city’s poor air quality does not become an issue once again.
The current prognostications do not look good, however,
Just a few days before the Diwali festival, the Delhi Air Quality Index (AQI) was very poor.
AQI standards apply a sliding scale to measure air quality – 0 – 50 is regarded as good; 51 – 100 satisfactory; 101 – 200 as moderate; 201 – 300 poor, and 301 – 400 is very poor. Anything above 400 is very severe, and can cause serious harm to human health.
According to the reading taken in the vicinity of the University of Delhi, the AQI at the weekend was 357 – at the bottom end of the very poor level.
Whilst the BCCI is hoping for an improvement in air quality after the Diwali festival, question marks about why they insist on keeping to their rotation policy, given the obvious risks to players and spectators alike from scheduling matches in Delhi at this time of year, should be raised.