Coming back from lunch, several Sri Lankan cricketers including captain Dinesh Chandimal, Suranga Lakmal and Lakash Sadakanan were seen spotting wearing face masks on the field. The sight of seeing cricketers with the masks bothered the commentators Sanjay Manjrekar and Russel Arnold who both agreed it will get difficult to play with masks on. They further said that seamers will particularly face difficulty while bowling.
Manjrekar added that Indian players, who came on the field to give water to players, were also seen wearing masks before. Sri Lankan pacer Lahiru Gamage and Suranga Lakmal particularly struggled by the pollution and starting panting while bowling. A break was called on by the umpires to discuss the health concerns at Kotla after Gamage started coughing while bowling.
Both the captains discussed with umpires whether the game should be continued as Chandimal stressed his players were not comfortable on the field. The third umpire and match referee were also appraised of the situation and medical teams were brought on the field to take a look at whether the players can continue to play.
After plenty of discussions, which lasted for 20 minutes, Sri Lankan fielders went back to their fielding positions, still wearing masks and the game was resumed again. After 10 minutes of play, there was another interruption as Gamage, who looked clearly distressed while bowling, left the field to get a medical check-up. Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who reached his sixth double ton on Sunday, expressed his dissatisfaction over the constant interruptions and was soon adjudged LBW on 243 on Sadakanan’s delivery.
Few minutes after Kohli’s dismissal, there was yet another delay, as Lakal too went off the field citing health concerns. Sri Lanka team manager and Indian coach Ravi Shastri also came out in the middle to take a stock of the situation. But after another 10-minute holdup, the play was resumed again.
The situation turned bizarre with each second as Sri Lanka was left with 10 fielders in the middle and ran out of substitutions. Another interruption in the match increased Kohli’s frustration and the Indian skipper decided to declare the innings with 536 runs on the board.
It is the first time ever in the history of international cricket that a Test match was held up due to pollution concerns. Last year, a Ranji match was also canceled due to similar reasons between Bengal and Gujarat.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) level in New Delhi on Sunday was registered as “hazardous”, with PM 2.5 level measured at 316 by aqicn.org. Just two days ago, the pollution level in the capital had entered “severe” category in several areas.