New Delhi, December 7
At least a few spectators must have walked out of the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium with a pang of guilt after the day’s play. Many of them had been making fun of Sri Lanka’s pollution troubles and booing them as ‘cheats’ ever since the visitors came out wearing anti-pollution masks. The Sri Lankan team had every reason to be peeved with the crowd, and everyone else who doubted their integrity.
Yet, Sri Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal didn’t sound even upset, let alone be angry, over what his team had been subjected to over the last five days. Instead, he sounded almost apologetic for their suffering, as if it was their fault. “The thing is, we aren’t used to the pollution. That’s why we struggled in the first two days…” And then he went even further and thanked everyone. “Thanks to the Indians fans, thanks to Virat and team, wish them well for the tour of South Africa.”
In the press conference, Chandimal was repeatedly asked how tough it was for them to focus on the game with the rival camp, former players and the crowd accusing them of using pollution as a tactic. The skipper, however, refrained from chest-thumping, even though he had enough ammunition after Mohammed Shami threw up on the field yesterday and after having denied India the victory. Nevertheless, he simply said, “After the first two days, we decided we need to forget all about it and just focus on the game”.
Former Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews, too, gave the benefit of doubt to the Indian players after they questioned their integrity. “It was one of those unique occasions where no one knew what to do. It didn’t hamper the relationship of players on the field. Off the field we are great friends and it will remain the same.” Remember, Kohli had been so upset with the Australians after the controversy-ridden series earlier this year that he had publically declared he was no longer friends with them.
Just like the Lankans have been accused of overplaying the pollution issue, can’t the Indians be accused of underplaying it? Why none of them used the mask on the field even though the conditions were really bad? Kuldeep Yadav was seen wearing it (a couple of other players too are said to have used the mask in the dressing room) but once India took the stand against Lanka, no one used it. For the record, R Ashwin had asthma as a child, although his current condition isn’t known. It surely wouldn’t have hurt if he had put on the mask!