Sri Lanka cricketers arrived at training for their game against Bangladesh in face masks, while players with asthma from either team stayed indoors amid poor air quality in smog-shrouded Delhi.
Both teams had already cancelled one practice session in the build up to Monday’s group-stage match between eliminated Bangladesh and seventh-placed Sri Lanka, who have only the slimmest of chances of reaching the last four.
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Air quality remains the main talking point before the game at Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi with the local air quality index (AQI) an alarming 460 on Sunday. An AQI of 0-50 is considered good while anything between 400 and 500 affects healthy people and is considered a danger to those with existing diseases.
The Sri Lanka head coach, Chandika Hathurusingha, said his team were trying to minimise exposing their players to such conditions ahead of the match. “Our doctor is keeping a close eye on the players,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“Some of the players didn’t turn up for practice as they are asthmatic, so they stayed indoors,” Hathurusingha said. “Even for practice, we’re 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.”
Sri Lanka’s captain, Kusal Mendis (left), arrives at Arun Jaitley Stadium wearing a face mask. Photograph: Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has banned the use of fireworks in post-match celebrations after Monday’s match, the last in Delhi. The International Cricket Council (ICC) said it was monitoring the situation, while local schools will remain closed until 10 November due to the poor air quality in the region.
“It’s not ideal, but we have no choice. We have to play in the conditions in front of us,” Hathurusingha said. “Team selection won’t depend on air quality. It depends on the condition and the opposition and our strength.” The head coach added he was not “a qualified person” to judge whether Delhi was a suitable venue at this time of year.
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The Sri Lanka captain, Kusal Mendis, later dismissed media reports claiming that the 1996 champions had requested the ICC to shift the match to another venue. “We didn’t make a request to change … we just asked them what’s the plan,” Mendis told reporters.
“I think they have installed some equipment here, and they’ve got specialists to check [the air quality]. They have already informed us that they are planning to go ahead. So we will do exactly what the ICC actually tells us to do.”