NEW DELHI: It was the second day of the third cricket Test Match being played between India and Sri Lanka at Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, Delhi. The Indian captain Virat Kohli was cruising his way to his first triple century in Test Cricket. Fans were pouring in large numbers on a mildly cold Sunday morning as everyone was expecting a master-class triple century from Virat Kohli.

The play went beautifully in the first session as India crossed 500 run mark before Lunch. After lunch, what was witnessed was a pure drama by Sri Lankan cricketers as they entered the field with masks on their faces. This was unprecedented in the history of international cricket. The drama continued as the Lankan players refused to play citing the reason that the smog was unbearable for them.

Now, it’s true that Delhi has a history of smog problem and last month only the situation was so bad that schools had to be closed in the national capital due to extreme pollution levels. But at the stadium, the situation wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be the Sri Lankan cricketers. If indeed, the Sri Lankan cricketers felt that there was ‘smog’ which made it unbearable for them to play, it raises many questions.

Firstly, how come the Lankan cricketers didn’t say anything at the start of the day’s play when the smog was more, considering the fact that in mornings the level of smog is usually higher than in the day? Secondly, if their counter-argument is that they didn’t feel the smog in the morning and felt it only during the day, then why did none of the Lankan batsmen came with a mask while coming to bat the very same day?

Are Sri Lankans trying to say that smog became unbearable when Virat Kohli was eyeing his first triple century and India looking forward to cross 600 runs in their first innings? If any of this is true, then it’s a case of absolute hypocrisy.

One thing which is noteworthy here is that while Lankan cricketers were constantly interrupting the game citing smog as a reason, none of the Indian batsman, umpires of the field and thousands of spectators witnessing the match were wearing masks on their faces. If the counter-argument is that Indian fans and cricketers have adapted themselves to the level of smog here, what about field umpires both of whom came from different countries where pollution levels are near to non-existent? Did they also adapt themselves to the alarming levels of smog here?

If the Lankan cricketers would have complained about smog from the morning itself, then their case would have appeared somewhat genuine. But because they chose to do the drama as a ploy to disrupt the concentration of Virat Kohli, their intentions seem filled with malice and against sportsmanship.

This is not a one-off incident of foul play by Lankan cricketers. In 2010, a Sri Lankan bowler bowled a no-ball deliberately to deny the then Indian opener Virender Sehwag an ODI century against them when has was batting on 99 and only a run was left to win the match. Though, Sehwag did hit a six of the last ball to complete his century but because of that deliberate no-ball, the six wasn’t counted as India had already won the match.

In the first test match of the ongoing series too at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, the visitors tried successfully to save the match by taking too much time in useless stuff like calling their support staff again and again on the ground citing health reasons. By successfully managing to kill a significant time on the last day of the test match where India was sniffing a chance of victory, these negative tactics by Lankans denied India a chance to win that match.

Not much was said back then but now they took this ugly behavior to a whole new level. As a result of the constant disruptions created by Lankan cricketers, both Virat Kohli and Ravi Chandran Ashwin lost their concentration on batting. Ashwin got out the very first ball once the play resumed after the first interruption. Kohli was next to follow after subsequent interruptions. He was visibly getting frustrated and irritated due to the ugly ploy of the Lankan cricket team.

Lankans were successful in their strategy of taking the wicket of Kohli but they just didn’t want the Indian batting line up to pile up more than 600 runs in first innings. To counter that, they just increased their drama by constantly debating with the field umpires. This made the Indian captain Virat Kohli even angrier and then he finally sent an angry signal from the dressing room that if the Sri Lankan team didn’t want to field, Indian team will. He called off the Indian batsman from the ground and declared the innings at 536/7.

With this decision, one could see an evil smirk on the faces of Lankan cricketers. This episode is one of the ugliest incidents of employing negative tactics by a team. The gentleman’s game was shamed today. Their actions have put bad name to Delhi as a venue for cricket or any other sporting activity.

Though, a section of public in the social media appeared happy that whatever the intentions of Lankan cricketers were, this episode has re-emphasized the issue of pollution in the national capital to a global audience. This segment of the public believes that this episode will ultimately lead to a positive result as authorities would be forced to take some emergency measures now.

It’s a matter of debate whether any good would come out of this episode but one thing is sure that Cricket was played in the right sportsmanship by only one team today.