From consulting pulmonologists to asking players to sit indoors, the ICC and event organizers are taking other steps too to help the players
Andrew Fidel Fernando05-Nov-2023 • 3 hrs ago
What happens if the air quality is hazardous in Delhi? Will Bangladesh still play Sri Lanka? Here’s all that you need to know
The ICC’s protocols
Since the 2017 Delhi Test between Sri Lanka and India, in which many players had vomited after stints in the field, and other reported respiratory problems, the ICC drew up guidelines in which poor air quality would be treated the same as weather events that impede play , or compromise player safety, such as rain, or lightning.
This means that air quality will be monitored by BCCI staff via handheld devices in the stadium (the nearest measuring station is over one kilometer away), and these readings will be conveyed to the ICC’s medical staff, as well as medical staff of both the Bangladesh and Sri Lanka teams. Match officials already have guidelines as to what kinds of air quality conditions are suitable for play.
The figure below which it is safe to play, according to ICC guidelines and Sri Lanka medical staff, is an AQI of 200. This is not a hard cutoff, however (like the wide-ball guidelines on a pitch). Doctors are likely to consider player feedback quite seriously.
What happens on match day?
With ongoing monitoring at the stadium itself, match officials, in concert with medical staff, will take a call on when conditions are suitable for play. Because air quality is being considered as essentially a part of the weather by the ICC, the toss is expected to happen at 1:30pm local, and so long as the ICC and the medical staff consider the air quality suitable for play, the match will begin at 2pm.
If conditions are not suitable, officials will watch the readings until such time as it improves sufficiently to allow play. Just as it would happen for rain or a wet outfield, the extra time that is built into a cricket match will be used up if necessary, and if that is exhausted, the match will start losing overs.
If an ODI cannot be completed (each team would have to bat a minimum of 20 overs for it to considered a completed ODI), the teams will take a point each from the game.
How can organizers help?
They will urge players to remain in the dressing rooms, where air purifiers will be operational, rather than in the outdoor dugout, where those who run drinks in particular, usually sit. They will also use sprinklers to lower the pollutants in the immediate playing area. Rain has often helped substantially reduce pollutants in the air, but to what extent sprinklers can do the same, and for how long, is unclear.
In that 2017 Test, many Sri Lanka players also wore masks as they stepped out into the outfield. In the approach to this match, many Bangladesh and Sri Lanka players were seen wearing masks, which doctors had recommended.
Has there ever been a pollution-shortened game before?
Although that Test in 2017 had seen long medical delays, there have been no limited-overs matches that have been shortened because of pollution. Cricket, to some extent is shooting in the dark here. Although the ICC is consulting a pulmonologist (lung specialist), there is not a lot of data as to what constitutes safe air quality conditions for cricket, particularly given there are different cardiovascular workloads on fast bowlers, batters, spinners, and wicketkeepers.
Where does this leave the current cricket?
Both teams have tried to have as many practice sessions before this match as possible, partly because they are both perceived to have underperformed by their home fans, and feel as if they must be seen as working hard. With Champions Trophy qualification on the line, Bangladesh need this match to happen more than Sri Lanka (Bangladesh have two points this World Cup), but Sri Lanka would like the chance at two points too.
What have the team said about air quality?
Sri Lanka team manager Mahinda Halangoda: “Definitely we will be looking at the index. We will be guided by the ICC. They have a medical panel here. We will be guided by their instruction. When we came here today we were wearing masks, and we were told to wear masks. It depends on how the outside index is, and then we’ll make a call.”
Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusinghe: “Air quality is affecting both teams. It is not ideal. But we have no choice. We have to play in the conditions that’s in front of us.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf