Cricket in a haze? Not a new phenomenon at this time of the year in Delhi but the importance of the event certainly placed the organisers in a desperate situation regarding the staging of the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka match of the ongoing ICC ODI World Cup.
The match is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at the Arun Jaitley Stadium here on Monday.
The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) on Sunday implemented Stage IV of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in the National Capital Region (NCR). This was in addition to Stage I, II and III to stop more deterioration of air quality in the region.
The CAQM said in a statement, “Keeping in view the prevailing trend of air quality, and in an effort to prevent further deterioration of air quality in the region, the Sub-Committee today has taken the call to invoke all actions as envisaged under Stage IV of GRAP ‘Severe Air Quality (Delhi’s Air Quality Index [AQI] 450), today with immediate effect in the entire NCR.”
The severe air pollution in Delhi, caused by the stubble burning in nearby states and the massive construction activities, cast a doubt if the match may have to be shifted.
But the logistics issues did not encourage the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to entertain such an alternate measure.
According to a Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) official, the pollution level inside the stadium was not as overbearing as projected. The AQI was reportedly below the dangerous mark.
“It was around 120. This is something beyond the organisers but we did approach the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to help us. The MCD responded swiftly and took some steps, like spraying water in areas around the stadium. We hope the situation would improve on the day of the match,” said the official, not willing to be named.
According to an ICC Spokesperson, “The BCCI engaged the services of renowned pulmonologist Dr. Randeep Guleria to assess the situation in Delhi ahead of Monday’s game and provide independent expert advice.
“Under Dr. Guleria’s guidance, the venue team has been taking mitigating actions throughout the day including the implementation of water sprinklers around the premises and the installation of air purifiers in the dressing rooms and match officials’ areas.
“The AQI within the stadium was monitored throughout the day and has been reduced to levels considered acceptable by Dr. Guleria. Bangladesh conducted a training session at the stadium earlier this evening without incident,” he added.
Dr. Guleria said, “The AQI should be ideally below 150. In the past too, other sporting events have taken place in Delhi when the AQI has been between 150 and 200. Precautions need to be taken and it won’t be an issue. Around this time of the year the city does face these challenges.”
“The ICC will continue to work in collaboration with Dr. Guleria, BCCI, DDCA, and the Delhi Government to monitor the air quality and to take all possible steps to mitigate the air quality concerns at the Arun Jaitley Stadium and the match remains scheduled to take place in Delhi on Monday”ICC spokesperson on changing the schedule
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had cancelled their training sessions on Saturday because of the poor air quality.
It is learnt that the BCCI had put Lucknow on stand-by in case the match had to be shifted. But a veteran BCCI official confirmed it would have been a herculean task at such a short notice.
“It would have been a tough job because there are logistics issues related to the broadcaster. Of course the host would have had to look at the accommodation and travel. Sale of tickets at the new venue. Not easy,” said the official.
In the North, cricket in winter had always presented challenges from the weather - severe cold, fog and poor visibility. A Test match between India and Sri Lanka in 2017 saw five of the visiting players taking the field wearing masks to thwart the smog.
“It depends on individual to individual. Citizens go jogging with the mask on and some find it claustrophobic,” Dr. Guleria noted.
The local government has put restrictions on the movement of heavy vehicular traffic, construction activities, shutting educational institutions and advising citizens to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities.
“The ICC will continue to work in collaboration with Dr Guleria, BCCI, DDCA, and the Delhi Government to monitor the air quality and to take all possible steps to mitigate the air quality concerns at the Arun Jaitley Stadium and the match remains scheduled to take place in Delhi on Monday,” the ICC spokesperson assured.
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