Joe Root on poor air quality at Cricket World Cup match: ‘Couldn’t breathe, it was like eating air’

England’s star batter Joe Root has revealed that his teammates were struggling to breathe properly during their recent ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 match against South Africa in Mumbai.

The comments from Root came after air quality in India’s financial capital slipped to “very unhealthy”, leaving players gasping for clean air. It was also hot during Saturday’s match with temperatures reaching 35C in Mumbai during the game.

South Africa defeated England by 229 runs at the city’s Wankhede Stadium on 21 October, marking the world champions’ biggest loss in the 50-over World Cup history.

Root later talked to reporters at a press conference in Bengaluru city about the air quality in Mumbai and said the experience was akin to “eating air”.

“I’ve not played in anything like that before. I’ve obviously played in hotter conditions, and probably more humid conditions. But it just felt like you couldn’t get your breath. It was like you were eating the air. It was unique,” Root said.

South Africa’s middle-order batter Heinrich Klassen was crowned the Player of the Match. At No 5, he struck 12 fours and four sixes to help South Africa reach 399 in 50 overs.

However, Klassen could not come out to the field after his incredible 67-ball knock of 109.

“You could see it with Klaasen. You could see how much it took out of him, not being able to get back out onto the field,” said Root.

(AFP via Getty Images)

“I mean you couldn’t get away from it. You walk out onto the field and your shirt’s soaking wet, and you have a lot heavier breath than you would do, and you know you’ve done your fitness and stuff, it’s not like you’re short on that. So you are very aware of it.”

Mumbai has historically avoided the worst of India’s significant air pollution issues owing to it being a coastal city.

But this has not been the case in recent years. Last year, the city faced a long spell of poor air quality that extended from November to January.

And air quality levels in Mumbai now regularly overshoot those in Delhi – infamous for having some of the poorest air quality indices recorded worldwide.

In Delhi the air quality has hit the “very poor” category this week, with concerns it could affect the Australia vs the Netherlands match in the capital on Wednesday.

Australian cricketer Mitchell Marsh, when asked about the air quality in India’s national capital made light of the issue.

“I think the only time I’m affected by the air quality is when my golf ball goes up in the air and I can’t see it but apart from that, absolutely no stress in mind,” he said.

A live air quality index ranking for cities by IQAir – a Swiss technology company that measures air quality in real time – currently shows Mumbai as the sixth most polluted city in the world, with Delhi as the second-most polluted.

Three more games for the 2023 World Cup are due to be played at Mumbai, including the first semi-final.

The next fixture in Mumbai will be between India and Sri Lanka on 2 November.

England have three losses from four matches in the 2023 World Cup. Jos Buttler’s team will be gearing up to face off against Sri Lanka at Bengaluru’s Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday.