Delhi’s severe pollution problem brought cricket players to their knees during a Test match between India and Sri Lanka, with many experiencing difficulty breathing and vomiting in heavy smog.
"This match should not have taken place in the first place," said Indian Medical Association president KK Aggarwal. "It is time the ICC (International Cricket Council) comes up with a policy on pollution."
Players took to the field Monday for day three of a five-day cricket event after Sunday’s game, in which three Sri Lankan players experienced illness. Umpires dismissed their concerns, ruling that the match would continue.
Medical professionals are now urging the Board of Control for Cricket of India (BBCI) to postpone future games and revise the rulebook covering health and safety for professional players.
Officials should avoid hosting sports events during the winter season, they note: a time when pollution levels are at their peak.
"You have fast bowlers, batsmen and fielders out there exposed to these very harmful pollutants over five days at a stretch," Aggarwal said. "It takes a serious toll on your health in the long run."
But BBCI President CK Khanna insists that the Sri Lankan team were just making a fuss. "Twenty thousand people in the stands did not have problems and the Indian team did not face any issue," he said.
Despite Khanna’s denial, the board has said it will consider scheduling cricket matches around the city’s extreme pollution levels.
Reports demonstrate that carcinogenic chemicals are fine enough to lodge deep within the lungs and have been found to contribute to growing rates of lung cancer, heart disease and chronic respiratory conditions in the long term.
More than 30,000 runners took place in a half-marathon in November, just days after schools were closed following a public-health emergency warning against all outdoor exertion.
"We cannot expose our athletes to inhuman levels of pollution just because a few hundred crores (tens of millions of US dollars) is at stake," Dr. Arvind Kumar, a chest and lung-care specialist, told AFP.