The ICC is seeking expert advice to assess the declining air quality in New Delhi, the venue of the World Cup match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on November 6.

The weather situation in Delhi has been grim over the past week, with a thick blanket of smog engulfing the city. As on 2pm IST, the AQI (Air-Quality Index) in the embassy area close to the centre of the city stood at 546, deep into ‘hazardous’ category. In the outskirts, that number has shot over 700, with some parts nearly touching 800. The government has employed various measures as the conditions moved to combat the existing situation, as the air quality pushed to “severe-plus category”.

“We don’t want to get sick”

On Friday, Bangladesh cancelled their practice session, with team director Khaled Mahmud explaining that, “due to worsening conditions”, the team decided against going to the stadium. “Some of us developed coughing, so there’s a risk factor. We don’t want to get sick,” he said.

On Saturday, Sri Lanka too cancelled their practice. The developments have raised doubts over the fate of the fixture on November 6.

“We are taking expert advice”

An ICC spokesperson said: “The ICC and our hosts the BCCI take the wellbeing of all participants seriously and are monitoring the air quality in Delhi. We are taking expert advice to assess the situation.”

There has been no indication from yet from either ICC or BCCI whether they match will be called off or moved to a different location. The logistical challenges of moving the match to a different venue at such short notice will also be extreme.

What complicates the situation is how air quality is assessed: it is considered by match officials on the day of the match. The ICC guidelines for the same are same ones used for other weather matters.

Clause 2.7 of the ICC Playing Conditions for the World Cup on ‘Fitness of Play’ states:

2.7.1 It is solely for the umpires together to decide whether either conditions of ground, weather or light or exceptional circumstances mean that it would be dangerous or unreasonable for play to take place. Conditions shall not be regarded as either dangerous or unreasonable merely because they are not ideal.

Further, “Conditions shall be regarded as dangerous if there is actual and foreseeable risk to the safety of any player or umpire” and that “Conditions shall be regarded as unreasonable if, although posing no risk to safety, it would not be sensible for play to proceed”.

Clause 2.8, relating to ‘suspension of play in dangerous or unforeseen circumstances’, reads: “If at any time the umpires together agree that the conditions of ground, weather or light, or any other circumstances are dangerous or unreasonable, they shall immediately suspend play, or not allow play to start or to recommence. The decision as to whether conditions are so bad as to warrant such action is one for the umpire alone to make, following consultation with the match referee”.

Champions Trophy spot to play for

While seventh-placed Sri Lanka’s World Cup chances are all but over, and ninth-placed Bangladesh are out of the race, the match has further context: the top seven teams from the league stage (as well as Pakistan) will qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy.

History of smog in Delhi

Six years ago, at the same venue, a Test match between India and Sri Lanka was severely affected by smog. Players had to resort to masks due to breathing struggles, with then-coach Nic Pothas revealing that some players had to go off the field and vomit.

Smog has been a seasonal issue in Delhi around November, in the days leading up to the festival of Diwali. Stubble burning in the neighbouring states, combined with cold weather and stagnant winds, contribute significantly to air’s particulate matter during this time.