Cricket News: Mumbai heat & air quality pushes players to the limit in World Cup semi-final | Mumbai air quality index: Tough outing for players at Wankhede
India continued on their merry way, qualifying for the 2023 World Cup Final after their tenth-straight victory in what has been a magnificent tournament for them. Hundreds to Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer took the hosts to a mammoth 397/4, before Mohammed Shami took a remarkable 7/57 to eventually win player of the match and continue his superb campaign.
The fact the match was full of entertainment and runs is testament to the fitness of the players. Temperatures touched 38 degrees on Wednesday afternoon, with the humidity the big test for all involved.
Even the supremely fit Virat Kohli suffered from cramps during his century, while Shubman Gill had to retire hurt with cramps of his own. New Zealand’s Daryl Mitchell, during his own magnificent century, looked worse for wear on a very humid Mumbai evening.
Mumbai air quality adds further test to the players
Air Quality Index (AQI) is a measure for reporting air quality. Anywhere between zero and 100 is acceptable, with 101 to 150 being unhealthy for sensitive groups. At the moment, Mumbai is one of the Indian cities who currently have an unhealthy AQI. As of November 16, Mumbai’s AQI was considered a ‘moderate’ 168, with many nearby regions dealing with an AQI of 200+.
This poor air quality adds to the challenge when you combine it with the heat. It brings about questions regarding the wellbeing and safety of the players, and one wonders whether it is a matter of when – rather than if – cricket matches will be stopped for poor air quality in the future.
A survey of Mumbai residents earlier this month revealed 80% of families have suffered from a sore throat or cough. Also, 44% of respondents reported burning eyes. Around the time of the survey, Glenn Maxwell produced one of the all-time great ODI knocks, made all the more remarkable given the AQI was 14 times worse than the safe limit back on November 7.
Earlier in the World Cup, England batsman Joe Root said the challenge of playing in Mumbai is nothing he has encountered before.
“I’ve not played in anything like that before,” he said. “I’ve obviously played in hotter conditions, and probably more humid conditions, but it just felt like you couldn’t get your breath. It was like you were eating the air.”
“It felt like quite a hazy day,” he continued. “You could definitely see that from one side of the ground, looking back towards the sun, it was a lot harder visually than it was on the other side of the ground. Whether it was air quality or what, it was definitely an experience I’ve not had before.”
Cricket in Delhi needs to be reviewed for the future
That being said, Mumbai’s air quality has not reached the levels seen in Delhi. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had to cancel training sessions earlier this month as the AQI crossed a hazardous 401, again putting the spotlight on how cricketing bodies will treat pollution as a factor that can stop play. In the end, that match went ahead, but the poor visibility was clear to see in the broadcast.
Back in 2017, India and Sri Lanka players struggled during a Test match in Delhi. Indian fast bowler Mohammed Shami vomited on the field on day four, two days after the Sri Lankan fast bowlers did the same. The match was stopped on day two, where a number of Sri Lankan fielders came out onto the field wearing masks after the lunch break.
Cities such as Mumbai and Delhi typically have poor air quality especially in the October to January period owing to factors such as changing weather, firecrackers and vehicle emissions. This puts the question to cricket’s administrators when it comes to scheduling. Locations are avoided at certain stages due to heat, i.e. Dubai in the middle of the year, but it’s high time the same is considered when it comes to air quality given the health and safety of athletes is important from a sporting perspective.