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Smog stops play

Pragyan Ojha and Manoj Tiwary leave Feroz Shah Kotla with masks to counter Delhi's pollution ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The rising levels of pollution in Delhi have affected the cricket too, claiming the whole day's play between Bengal and Gujarat at Feroz Shah Kotla and between Hyderabad and Tripura at Karnail Singh Stadium. The sun came out but failed to break through the dense smog hanging in India's capital.

The light improved for an hour or so during the day but players complained their eyes burnt when they went into the middle. Bengal players were seen leaving the ground wearing masks. With the air quality not expected to improve dramatically, these two matches are unlikely to produce a result.

"This is the first time something like this happened in my career," Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary said. "You can't blame anyone. There is so much burning sensation in the eyes. After the toss, umpires asked both me and Parthiv and we both decided that we can't play. During warm-up we felt that it's not happening. We have to take care of our health also. This is something unheard of. But we are all responsible because when we burst crackers we really think about environmental pollution."

Residents in the capital region have been likening being in Delhi to being in a gas chamber. The trigger for the smog has been the after-effects of the fireworks on Diwali, and the burning of paddy stubble in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana. The farmers burn the stubble to prepare the ground for the next crop, in the process damaging both the soil and the air quality. Harvesting with mechanised combines, they say, leaves them with no option but to burn the remaining stubble. When they harvested with hands, they could use the remaining stubble as fodder or to make cardboards.