Some unprecedented scenes were witnessed at Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla on the second day of the third and final Test on Sunday as several protesting Sri Lankans players wore facemasks as smog engulfed the city. In all, three Sri Lankan players vomited due to breathlessness, said Sri Lanka team coach Nic Pothas after the day’s play. A total of 21 minutes of play was lost due to the weather conditions.
The Sri Lankans, trailing 0-1 in the series, didn’t want to continue as pacer Lahiru Gamage appeared to be vomiting in the middle of an over while Virat Kohli was batting at 240. At that stage, India were in the driver’s seat with their first-innings total reading 519 for five wickets in the 123rd over. Kohli, batting along with R Ashwin, was keen to continue and as a mark of protect lied down on the field with his pads on even as the umpires confabulate with ICC match referee David Boon of Australia, and later with the two teams’ coaches.
The play was stopped twice due to smog, besides the time consumed by medical treatment on players. When the play stopped for the second time, again due to smog, India were 527 for seven – Kohli had got out for his career-best 243 – and Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja were at the crease. At this stage, India team coach Ravi Shastri walked out in the middle to talk to umpires Nigel Llong and Joel Wilson. However, quite surprisingly Boon didn’t come out on to the field to take a final decision on the prevailing situation. Maybe, he conveyed his thoughts to the on-field umpires on the walkie-talkie.
And when the third time the Sri Lankan players protested the smog, Nic Pothas waked out in the middle. But even as the Pothas and the umpires were engaged in a discussion, Kohli declared the innings closed at 536 for seven. He looked a bit angry as he repeatedly gestured that India will now bowl. Captains usually don’t signal the bowling sign as it is understood that after an innings declaration, the team would bowl. But Kohli looked a bit annoyed at the Sri Lankan protests and his repeated gesture to bowl in the same conditions may have been due to anger and maybe to prove a point. Ironically, when the declaration came the sun was trying to peep out of the haze.
And, lo and behold, when India bowled, pacer Mohammed Shami dismissed Sri Lankan opener Dimuth Karunaratne with the very first delivery of the innings -- a beauty of a ball that moved a shade to kiss the bat on way to the wicket-keeper. Kohli was ecstatic and gestured towards the Sri Lankan dressing room as if to say “see, we can play and take wickets under the same conditions”. Then, pacer Ishant Sharma dismissed No.3 Dhananjaya de Silva to make it 14 for two. Eventually, Sri Lanka finished the day at 131 for three and have their backs against the wall. The visitors now have three more days to save this Test and avoid a 0-2 defeat.
After the play, while India bowling coach Bharat Arun and Nic Pothas tried to justify their players’ stands due to the smog – an issue that rages in Delhi every winter. Last month, Delhi government even closed the schools for a few days due to heavy smog.