Acute air pollution in the Capital halted the third Test between India and Sri Lanka for over 15 minutes at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground on Sunday after smog saw visibility dip following the lunch interval.
As the Sri Lankan fielders trooped out with India skipper Virat Kohli and R Ashwin, the sun had all but disappeared due to heavy smog and several visiting team members wore face masks. The reading at the ITO junction, a few hundred feet away from the ground, indicated “unhealthy” conditions while it was “hazardous” in many other places in Delhi.
Play stopped after Sri Lanka pace bowler Lahiru Gamage doubled up in discomfort after sending down a delivery. The visiting players got into a huddle while Virat Kohli, waiting impatiently after reaching a career-best 240, lay on the ground and stretched, with his home crowd cheering and hoping for a re-start.
However, the umpires spoke to the Indian batsmen and the Sri Lanka fielders. Although Gamage resumed and dismissed Ashwin off the very first ball, he walked off the field after a while, helped by a support staff members.
The break in play also affected Kohli’s focus as he was out for 243, dashing hopes that the India skipper would go on to get his maiden Test triple century.
With almost all Sri Lanka players wearing face masks, play was again halted for around five minutes. India coach Ravi Shastri also walked into the field to have a word with the umpires, Nigel Llong and Neol Wilson, before play got under way.
It was then the turn of Sri Lanka coach, Nic Pothas, as it appeared the visiting side wanted a break in play till conditions improved. There was no immediate official word. Pollution was at its worse in the second half of November, raising doubts whether the Delhi Half Marathon would go ahead on November 19. Despite repeated health warnings, it was eventually held with the organisers sprinkling water along the race route to help the dust settle.
Pollution levels had improved in the last several days, but it dipped on Sunday.
Cricket website Espncricinfo reported that the ICC Match Referee David Boon had consulted a doctor during the longer initial break in play.
Test matches, usually held during winter months in Delhi, have been halted in the past due to poor light and smog, but pollution seems to have affected an international game for the first time.
Two Ranji matches were called off last year due to acute smog and smoke.