It began with India's bowling coach B Arun questioning Sri Lanka fast bowlers' fitness on day two when they doubled over and vomited as they struggled to cope with the Delhi pollution. Mohammed Shami was more understanding on day three in saying that Indians' being used to pollution is not necessarily a good thing but at the same time said the situation was not as bad as was being depicted.
On day four, having seen his team-mate Shami vomit on the field, Shikhar Dhawan was more understanding of Sri Lanka's struggles with the Delhi air, but he only went as far as giving them a benefit of doubt.
"It is possible (that their discomfort is genuine)," Dhawan said when asked if he would reconsider India's stance now that he had seen Shami struggle too. "Now only they (Sri Lankans) know (if their concerns have been genuine). Maybe in Sri Lanka the pollution is not that high. There are more beaches in Sri Lanka. It's natural that coastal areas won't have so much air pollution. Of course, they may be feeling discomfort. And it is not as if there is no pollution. I won't hide that. It is what it is. Maybe they are feeling it more, I don't know. But I still insist playing is our farz and karm [the two words loosely translate to duty and deeds but mean much more], which we should do. They must be feeling it (discomfort), though."
Duty was the theme when Dhawan was earlier asked if he sympathised with the Sri Lanka players, who are not used to these levels of pollution. "Maybe they are not used to this, but there will be many in our team who are not used to this pollution," Dhawan said. "They come from other states. But whatever our job is, we fulfill it. Nothing should come in the way of your work. That's my thinking. All of us are not from Delhi so it is the same for them as Sri Lankans."
When pointed out that even those players from other parts of India have some experience of playing in Delhi and having travelled to Delhi, Dhawan said: "See, if you are playing at another time in Delhi, the pollution level is different. It is not as though there is no pollution. Of course there is pollution. And it increases in the winters with the smog. Whatever the situation is, we have to mould to that. No matter who you are playing for - for the country or the state - it is a job, and you have to do that job."
Having grown up in Delhi, Dhawan is expected to be the most acclimatised to these conditions. While he showed awareness of what triggers the pollution in the winter months, he said his side didn't feel impeded by it. "Look I have been born and brought up in Delhi," Dhawan said. "Because the crops are harvested in other states (and the stubble is burnt for new crops), the pollution becomes a bit too much in these months. These days there has hardly been any sun either. If there had been sunlight, maybe the pollution would have come down a little bit. But it has not impeded us when playing cricket."
Dhawan confirmed Shami was fine, and "you will see him on the ground tomorrow". Dhawan complimented both his fast bowlers for the effort they put in these conditions. On a dead pitch, Shami and Ishant Sharma took five wickets between them in the first innings. Shami then provided the first breakthrough in the second, moments before he got sick. "Both bowled at a good pace because those of us standing in the slip cordon can feel that pace," Dhawan said. "This showcases their mindset and fighting abilities. They know that there isn't much help from the wicket. It's a paata (absolute dead track), but they have bowled with a lot of pace, it's good for them."