More than 25,000 crazy cricket fans paid little heed to public health emergency, thronging the Feroz Shah Kotla in large numbers to watch India play a T20 game against Bangladesh, braving the toxic air pollution in national capital.
Alarmed by the dipping air quality, the state government had ordered shutting down of schools till November 5 but students were present in large numbers to watch their cricketing heroes in action.
There were a few wearing anti-pollution masks but the number was insignificant compared to the ones who didn’t feel it necessary to use them.
Former India player and current East Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir has been critical of BCCI’s decision to hold the match despite pollution levels hitting the peak.
The sentiment was also echoed by Test specialist Ravichandran Ashwin, who voiced his concerns on health issues for the players.
Just before the start of the match at 7 pm, the average Air Quality Index (AQI) level stood at 281 (average) at the ITO, which is near the stadium
The CPCB figures available on their website revealed that the average AQI was 487, which was in ‘severe’ category.
However it was business as usual for the cricket fans even though there was no Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah or Hardik Pandya and the opposition was Bangladesh.
“There is no cricket match in Delhi before next year’s IPL, so we wanted to come and watch. Yes, pollution is an issue but life has not stopped. We are doing everything that is in routine,” said Aditya Narula, who came from West Delhi with his kids to watch the match.
Delhi woke up to light shower this morning and perhaps it helped in improving the visibility with DDCA heaving a sigh of relief.
Mask-wearing Bangladeshi players and support staff had grabbed the front-page headlines in build up to the match but the visiting players never complained about the poor air quality.
However, the conditions did not improve drastically and smog, which had settled low, may have made sighting the ball difficult.
“We were keeping an eye on weather though it is beyond our control. There was no request from BCB or its players to cancel the match, said a DDCA official.
In December 2017 when India hosted Sri Lanka, the visiting players had encountered health issues due to poor air quality in Delhi. Most of them had played the match wearing masks but the Test was completed.
The incidents of stubble burning in Northern states of Punjab and Haryana, combined with bursting of fire crackers, add to pollution in Delhi every year.