Sri Lanka bewildered by visit from DDCA doctor

Vallabhji: Poor air quality will affect cricketers in the long run (1:32)

Sports scientist Shayamal Vallabhji explains the threat posed by poor air quality after several Sri Lankan players struggled with the air pollution in Delhi (1:32)

The Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) sent its doctor on call to the Sri Lanka dressing room for a medical check-up during the lunch on the fourth day, but the purpose of the test and its methodology was lost on the Sri Lanka camp. Apart from the wicketkeeper and the bowler at that time, all nine Sri Lanka fielders wore masks, and Suranga Lakmal vomited on the field. This came after Sri Lanka were left with only 10 healthy mean to take the field on Sunday as they struggled to cope with the pollution in Delhi.

A BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo that "the Sri Lankan players have been checked by a senior doctor and they are all well", but reports quoted DDCA sources as saying that the players refused to take the test after three of them returned good readings. According to these reports, three players underwent tests for oxygen concentration levels, which returned readings pretty close to the optimum ones. Then the other players allegedly refused to take the test.

It was clearly a surprise visit for the team, which was left wondering how such a test would tell them what the events on the field didn't. "There was some test done," Sri Lanka coach Nic Pothas said at the end of the fourth day's play. "I have no idea what that test does or doesn't tell you. You saw today at the end of the day, Mohammed Shami was also struggling (He vomited on the field as well). I thought the guys did superbly well. We said the situation is the situation. Let's just get on with it. The guys did fantastically well through the day.

"I am not a doctor so I have no idea what these tests tell you. What were we testing? Why were we testing? It doesn't make anything go away. But I thought the guys did brilliantly. Great attitude through the day."

Sri Lanka have been under fire from a few of the commentators and fans both in the stadium and on social media. The genuineness of their concerns has been questioned every day, including some people wondering why their players didn't wear the masks when batting and wore them only while fielding. Pothas was asked if he felt the doctor had been sent to discredit their claims and his answers remained non-committal.

"It has nothing to do with me," Pothas said. "We made a pact as a team that we will get on with it. It is what it is. It is not going to go away. I thought the guys showed great attitude through the day.

"The bottom line is we have got to play a Test match. There is a professional bunch of people in that dressing room. We are very positive about our talk, and the way we behave, and the way we adapt to situations. We made a pact this morning that we are not going to discuss it, we are not going to talk about, we are going to go out and do our job."

Asked if the situation ever reached a stage where the team might have questioned the health risk was too much to take, Pothas said: "That is not for us to decide. Are people in discomfort? I think it speaks for itself. The rest we cannot control. We are professional. We stopped talking about it. It is not going to make a difference talking about it. The only thing we can do is go out and play. As I said, the guys brilliantly today."

About the questions asked of their wearing masks only when fielding, Pothas chose not to go into the nitty gritty of how calling for runs and concentrating can be hindered by them. "I think (commentator and former Sri Lanka cricketer) Russell Arnold's reply to that was the best reply I have ever seen," Pothas said." In that some people wear sunglasses when they field, and the same people don't wear them when they bat. I think when you read in newspapers today some of the reports from medical experts from around India, that will answer your question."

The newspapers have been quoting medical experts on the dangers of outdoor exertion in this air quality. "Players from other countries will not be able to breathe in the current situation," KK Aggarwal, national president of Indian Medical Association, told Times of India. "Our players might be accustomed to it, but they still should not be exposed to such air quality. It is dangerous and medically not advisable. The Sri Lankan players were right to protest."

Aggarwal was quoted by the The Scroll as saying: "This match should not have taken place in the first place. It is time the ICC comes up with a policy on pollution. You have fast bowlers, batsmen and fielders out there exposed to these very harmful pollutants over five days at a stretch. It takes a serious toll on your health in the long run."

Over in Pakistan, which shares the problem with India, former captain and legendary allrounder Imran Khan used the Delhi Test as an example for his compatriots. "This should be a wake up call for Pak," Imran tweeted. "Our children are at a huge risk because of dangerous pollution levels."

Pakistan's entire National T20 Cup was shifted out of Faisalabad because of pollution. A few days' play in the group stages of the first-class tournament, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, was also abandoned for the same reason. One of the many reasons Pakistan was reluctant to host West Indies last month was the smog in Lahore.