Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
Moments after the end of the Delhi T20I between India and Bangladesh, Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president, tweeted out his thanks to the two teams for playing "under tuff conditions". It was a significant moment, Ganguly becoming the first person in Indian cricket administration over the last three years to openly acknowledge that the atmospheric conditions in Delhi in November are not ideal for cricket.
The match went on without apparent incident, but ESPNcricinfo can confirm that Soumya Sarkar and one other player vomitted on the field during Bangladesh's chase. For his part, Bangladesh wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim stayed true to what he had told BCB president Nazmul Hassan before the match: that it was difficult but the players were going to manage it.
The match had been scheduled for the first weekend after Diwali, the festival of lights and firecrackers. Pollution in Delhi is at its worst in the week immediately following Diwali, thanks to the fireworks and crop-stubble burning in neighbouring states.
With the new BCCI team taking over only ten days before the game - the scheduling for this game, as in recent years, had been handled by the Committee of Administrators and the board's CEO - the match itself was never in serious doubt. Questions, though, persisted.
There was no let-up in the pollution on Sunday. The air quality dipped to severe levels in the afternoon with the AQI index at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, eight kilometres from the venue, reading 912. The general acceptable reading for these particulate matters is 200, beyond which athletic activity is discouraged for fear of damage to the lungs and the heart. Thirty-seven flights had been diverted from the national capital. Schools and construction activity had already been shut until November 5. The Delhi state government's medical department had put out an advisory on Sunday afternoon, saying the "severe level" of pollution "may result in morbidity among exposed people".
All this raised the possibility that the ICC match referee might step in for the safety of the players, with concerns over low visibility as well as the poor air quality.
Almost miraculously, the air quality improved over the next three hours to 563 at 4pm, 492 at 5pm and 262 at 6pm. After that, the air quality deteriorated progressively but didn't reach the alarming levels of the early afternoon. The stadium itself was almost sold out with crowds showing little concern and queuing up as early as 3.30pm.
"Personally, this air pollution is nothing for me," Mushfiqur said after his match-winning innings. "I was much more interested in which bowler I was facing. Playing against India in front of a big crowd isn't something Bangladesh team gets every day. I think we have come to play our biggest bilateral series, so these things don't matter."
Nazmul Hasan had expressed his concern before the game. "I had no idea about it [Delhi's pollution] until very recently," he told reporters. "But when I saw the situation on the internet, I honestly got scared. Then I heard the schools were closed.
"I spoke to the coach, captain and Mushfiq, and they told me it is an issue but they can play. This morning it looked quite bad. I wondered how they can see the ball. But from the very beginning they [BCCI] were saying it cannot be shifted. Apparently it is better than before."
In November 2016, Ranji Trophy matches were moved out of the city only for a Test match to be scheduled in similar conditions the following year. Bharat Arun, who as Hyderabad coach in 2016 spoke of the impossibility of stepping out or running in Delhi, spoke a year later, as part of the India set-up, of "unnecessary stoppages" and questioned the fitness levels of Sri Lanka's players, who had fallen ill while playing a Test in Delhi in 2017. Lessons were not learnt as Railways were allowed to host Mumbai in the first week of November 2018, when Siddhesh Lad batted in a mask.
If Ganguly's tweet suggested relief and some show of concern and duty of care, his words leading up to the match presented the promise that the BCCI might finally have learnt a lesson. "In future, when we schedule, especially in the northern part of India during the winter, we will have to be a little bit more practical," Ganguly had said a couple of days before the match. "I know post-Diwali it's a bit tough in the north. I hope everything goes fine."
For now the BCCI, as Ganguly's tweet acknowledged, has dodged a bullet, getting away with no big incident in a match organised on a day when the Delhi government issued a health advisory asking people to stay indoors and reschedule outdoor activities.