Joe Root referenced the air quality in Mumbai following England’s defeat by South Africa at the Wankhede Stadium last month, admitting the conditions made the players feel like they were “eating air”, adding: “It just felt like you couldn’t get your breath. It was unique.”
Root stopped short of definitively blaming pollution on that occasion, saying: “Who knows whether it was air quality? I’m not qualified to know. It felt like quite a hazy day, wasn’t it? And you could definitely see that from one side of the ground looking back towards the sun, it was a lot harder visually than it was on the other side of the ground. Whether it was air quality or what, it was definitely an experience I’ve not had before.”
Now i can reveal the high levels of pollution in India have forced some of England’s players – including Ben Stokes – to use inhalers, usually only used by people with asthma, during high-intensity training sessions.
England told i that the inhalers have been used sporadically throughout the tournament depending on what city the team have been in. They were used regularly in Delhi and Mumbai, where the Air Quality Index (AQI) is regularly at levels the World Health Organisation class as “unhealthy” or “hazardous”.
Stokes, one of the fittest members of the squad and the hardest trainer, was also pictured using an inhaler during the build-up to last week’s match against Sri Lanka in Bangalore.
While the better air quality in Ahmedabad means England’s players are unlikely to need the inhalers in the build-up to Saturday’s match against Australia, they will surely be used again in pollution-hit Pune – close to Mumbai – and Kolkata ahead of the team’s final two games of a disappointing World Cup campaign in which they have lost five out of six matches so far.
England confirmed to i that all substances in the inhalers used comply with the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) code that the International Cricket Council, the organisers of the World Cup, adhere to. England’s players have also been regularly tested throughout the tournament without any issues.
India captain Rohit Sharma brought the topic of air quality in his country to the fore again on Wednesday when he was critical of the pollution on the team’s arrival in Mumbai. Posting on social media in Hindi ahead of India’s match against Sri Lanka on Thursday, he said: “Mumbai, yeh kya hogaya [Mumbai, what has happened].”
He later expanded on the topic at his pre-match press conference, saying of the pollution in the city: “I mean, in an ideal world, you don’t want a situation like this, but I’m pretty sure the concerned people are taking the necessary steps.
“It’s not ideal, everyone knows that. But obviously, looking at our future generations – your kids, my kids – obviously, it’s quite important that they get to live without any fear. So, yeah, every time I get to speak outside of cricket, if we are not discussing cricket, I always talk about this. You know we have to look after our future generations.”