Delhi pollution hangs over Bangladesh and Sri Lanka World Cup clash

Teams cancel practice sessions and schools shut down due to poor air quality

The air quality in Delhi has plummeted to dangerous levels. AFP
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The World Cup match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Delhi is in danger of being severely affected by pollution with teams wary of the heavy smog that has enveloped the city, triggering serious health warnings.

Both sides had already cancelled one practice session in the build up to Monday's match between Bangladesh, who have already been eliminated, and seventh-placed Sri Lanka. The match, however, carries a lot of significance as the top eight teams at the end of the group stage will qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy.

What has made matters worse is the air quality in Delhi, that is one of the most polluted cities on the planet this time of the year. The level of pollution has gone from 'very poor' to 'severe' according to air quality monitors, with outdoor activities curtailed.

The local government has ordered the shutdown of primary schools until November 10, while online learning has been suggested for other classes.

Forcing the players to compete in an ODI in such conditions is unprecedented and while the International Cricket Council said it is monitoring the situation, Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha admitted his team has "no choice" but to play Sri Lanka in Delhi.

"Our doctor is keeping a close eye on the players," Hathurusingha said at the Arun Jaitley Stadium.

"Some of the players didn't turn up for practice as they are asthmatic, so they stayed indoors.

"Even for practice, we are very conscious. We train what we have to train, and then go back into the dressing room. They don't spend time outdoors unless they're bowling or batting.

"It's not ideal, but we have no choice. We have to play in the conditions in front of us."

A decision over the fate of the match will be made on Monday when match officials will decide whether the conditions are favourable for an international match.

Health experts warned that fans should not attend the match on Monday as prolonged exposure to toxic air can lead to respiratory issues.

Dr Vilkas Maurya, head of the Department of Pulmonology at Delhi's Fortis Hospital said that those with risk factors, the elderly and children should avoid attending the match.

“As we are seeing high pollution levels, people are being exposed to harmful effects and the World Cup is happening at this time. I don’t think it can be shut down now, but I would say that people who have allergies, asthma or risk factors should avoid going to the stadium and stay indoors,” Dr Maurya told The National.

The Indian cricket board has banned use of fireworks in post-match celebration but that is unlikely to have any impact on the already poor quality of air.

Earlier, India captain Rohit Sharma had lamented the poor quality of air in Mumbai that has been facing a high level of pollutants. However, the situation in Delhi is critical.

Updated: November 05, 2023, 1:23 PM