The prevailing air pollution in the national capital region has become a cause of concern ahead of the T20 International between India and Bangladesh at the Feroz Shah Kotla (Arun Jaitley International Stadium) on November 3. Back in December 2017, the Sri Lankan cricket team was left gasping for breath during a Test match at the Kotla, forcing most of their players to wear protective masks even as some fell ill.
However, the rotation policy followed by the BCCI and the travel route for the visiting team forced the BCCI to schedule the first match of the tour in Delhi, and they are now hoping that the city's poor air quality doesn't become an issue during the night encounter.
Just a couple of days before the Diwali, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was rated as "very poor".
As per AQI standards, 0-50 is considered good', 51-100 is satisfactory, 101-200 is moderate, 201-300 is poor while 301-400 is very poor. Anything above 400 is considered to be severe, which can cause serious health issues.
According to the available information, on Thursday, at 8:30 am, the AQI in the vicinity of the Delhi University was 357, which is considered to be very poor.
Both senior BCCI and DDCA officials acknowledged that air pollution is something that is beyond their control and they can only hope that since the match is being held a week after Diwali, the situation will be under control.
"Look, we have factored in the post Diwali air pollution in Delhi but since the match is a week away, we are hopeful that the players won't face any health hazards," a senior BCCI official told PTI while acknowledging that there are practical concerns.
Due to the nightmarish experience and bad publicity following the Sri Lanka game, there are questions as to why the BCCI didn't do away with the rotation policy as far as Delhi is concerned.
"The travel itinerary has been chalked in such a manner that Bangladesh will directly arrive in Delhi and exit the country from Kolkata. We wanted to make the travelling convenient that it starts from North, goes to West (Nagpur, Rajkot, Indore) and finishes in the east (Kolkata)," the official said.
It is expected that the Bangladesh team will be asked to carry face masks in case the need arises.
However, there could be some relief as a central government directive has stopped farmers in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana from paddy stubble burning.
"We have told Punjab and Haryana to completely stop stubble burning at least for the next few critical days. Next three weeks, especially days between October 26 to November 4, are critical and we are taking care," Environment secretary C K Mishra said.
Meanwhile, former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) and senior Supreme Court advocate Maninder Singh has replaced ex-India cricketer Gautam Gambhir as the government nominee in Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA)'s executive committee.
Gambhir recently resigned from his post as he is currently a Member of Parliament and it was against the Lodha Committee recommendations.
"Former ASG Maninder Singh is the government nominee and he attended the Executive committee (Apex Council) meeting on Thursday. During the meeting, secretary Vinod Tihara, who suspension was revoked by the court again got suspended," a senior DDCA official informed.
"This time he has been suspended as he used the DDCA letter head to write to the BCCI's electoral officer that he would attend the Board's General Body meeting on October 23.
"While Tihara's plea was rejected, the matter has been treated as violation of DDCA rules and hence he has again been suspended," he further stated.