Sri Lankan Players Ko Khaasi Kyun Hota Hai?


Sri Lankan Players Ko Khaasi Kyun Hota Hai?

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

Thanks to the air pollution in Delhi, India and Sri Lanka are currently experiencing a pivotal moment in their long relationship history.

The Sri Lankans have always been like our neighbours from the next building who show up for a gully cricket match at the first opportunity. Everyone knows that if both Indian and Sri Lankan players are free for 10 minutes, they will automatically start playing cricket, that is how much these two countries play with each other. But now that the Sri Lankans have dared to wear air pollution masks, we’re asking for their heads.

Social media outrage over the air masks accused the Sri Lankans of throwing “tantrums” and creating “drama”. It was all an excuse for their poor performance, it was said. What poor air quality, everyone yelled? It didn’t matter to them that a Test match was actually halted for the first time in its 140-year history for poor air quality. Or the fact that the pollution index in Delhi is at 92.5 points as opposed to 59.39 in Colombo. The island nation is known for its cleanliness.

See, Sri Lankans are not allowed to claim persecution via pollution. They’re like us only, na? Thanks to our shared cultural history and a short two-hour flight that does not require even a visa, Sri Lankan players are being treated with the “ye to apne hi bande hai yaar” syndrome. We also exhibit this behaviour with our other fellow brown people of Bangladesh and Pakistan. None of these are “internationals”, they are just “one of us”. So when Sri Lankan players wear anti-pollution masks on the field, we don’t understand it.  They’re not even “foreigners”, why should they have issues?

Cricket is a gentleman’s game, but none of those qualities of grace or dignity were displayed by the BCCI President CK Khanna when he asked, “If 20,000 people in the stands did not have problem and the Indian team did not face any issue, I wonder why Sri Lankan team made a big fuss?” Well, perhaps being able to play in terrible conditions is nothing to be proud of, Mr Khanna.

International sportsmen aren’t supposed to be playing in conditions that can be threatening to health.

If an Australian or English captain walked on the field wearing an anti-pollution mask and complained of breathing issues and poor playing conditions, would anyone question it? If Darren Lehmann or Trevor Bayliss complained of players vomiting after leaving the ground, would play still go on? I highly doubt it.

They would have probably walked off the field and the Test match would have been called off. International sportsmen aren’t supposed to be playing in conditions that can be threatening to health. We would have had to gulp down the fact that it was a genuine and valid issue and find ways to solve it.

But as it turns out, these are our brown Sri Lankan brothers from across the ocean, and BCCI is a powerful board in the world of cricket, so we can bully them to just get on with it. Unfortunately, the Sri Lankan board is not going to challenge the might of the BCCI, and they will get on with it, as medical opinions go for a toss.