A Delhiite himself, Shikhar Dhawan was candid in his admission that the city's air quality is poor but insisted that it cannot come in the way of going about their job of playing as professional cricketers. Delhi's viability as an international sports venue has been called into question after Sri Lankan players complained of breathing problems due to smog and continued to wear anti-pollution masks in the ongoing third Test against India at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi.
"I can't hide the fact that there is pollution but if you have been assigned a job then you have to go ahead and do it," Dhawan said matter-of-factly at the end of the fourth day.
He stated that a lot of Indian players from other states are adjusting to the prevailing conditions in the national capital.
On the fourth day, Sri Lanka players once again wore anti-pollution masks while rival pacers Suranga Lakmal and Mohammed Shami threw up on the field.
Asked if he sympathised with the Sri Lankans, Dhawan replied: "There are a lot of players in our team who are not used to this pollution thing in Delhi as they come from other states. But if you have been assigned a job (to play), you can't let anything come on its way. That's my thinking because not everyone in our team is from Delhi. The situation is same for them also."
But when a scribe reminded him that the Ashwins, Vijay's and Rahanes play a lot of cricket in Delhi round the year, Dhawan was more tactful in his response.
"Look, if you are playing in Delhi during some other time, the pollution won't affect you as much as it is affecting now. I would never say that there is no pollution in Delhi. Of course, there is pollution. During winters, there is a lot of smog, so whatever the situation is, we need to adjust accordingly. When you are playing for the country, you have to do your job," the opener said.
Dhawan said that the Sri Lankans, who primarily come from cities surrounded by sea, may be facing some problems.
"Maybe they are uncomfortable. Maybe there is less pollution in Sri Lanka. There are more beaches in Sri Lanka. It's natural that a city surrounded by beaches won't have much pollution.
"As I said I won't hide that there is pollution in Delhi. Now if it's there, it's there! We can't help it. Maybe they are feeling it more, I don't know. But still, I would insist that we should do our duty that is to play cricket."
Coming from the city, Dhawan tried to put things into perspective further.
"Look I have been born and brought up in Delhi. Since this is the time of crop harvesting in some of the states, the pollution is a wee bit more during this time of the year. Also this time, we haven't experienced good sunshine.
"Maybe if there was sunshine, pollution would have been less. I don't think playing cricket was a problem. As far as Shami is concerned, he is fine and you will see him in action tomorrow."
Dhawan also came in defence of young curator Ankit Datta, stating that he has done his best to provide a good wicket.
"The one in Kolkata was where the pitch was a bit damp first up. But every wicket has its own nature, made up of different soil components. The soil components determine the bounce in a track. Barring Dharamsala, there aren't too many bouncy wickets up north. The curator tried his best."
Dhawan lauded the effort put in by pacers Ishant Sharma and Shami considering the kind of struggle it has been for Lakmal and Lahiru Gamage.
"Both Ishant and Shami bowled at a good pace because those of us standing in the slip cordon can feel that pace. Hats off to them. This also indicates their mindset and fighting abilities. They know that there isn't much help from the wicket.
"It's flat, but they have bowled with a lot of pace, it's good for us," he signed off.
(With PTI Inputs)