KARACHI: Just a day after the HBL Pakistan Super League 6 match between Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United was postponed on Monday after Fawad Ahmed, the Islamabad overseas player, returned a positive Covid-19 test, two more overseas cricketers and a local backroom staff member tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, making the situation quite grim for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the franchises.
The latest cases surfaced after confirmation of 244 PCR results of five teams — results of around 40-45 people of the remaining franchise were being awaited — with the trio now placed in quarantine on a separate floor at the hotel where teams are staying in Karachi.
While the PCB have not revealed the names of the three new cases — as per policy —, reliable sources identified Islamabad United all-rounder Lewis Gregory, Quetta Gladiators batsman Tom Banton and Kamran Khan, who is the fielding coach of Karachi Kings, as the three people who have tested positive.
Impossible to ascertain causes, 244 tests conducted: PCB media head
The PSL’s Event Technical Committee, headed by Nadeem Khan with Dr Sohail Saleem, Sameer Khosa and Marina Iqbal as members, taking lenient view of Islamabad United having just three overseas players available — with one of them, the USA paceman Ali Khan unfit — have allowed them to field two non-Pakistani players for Tuesday’s fixture against Quetta Gladiators.
Addressing a press conference, held on a short notice at the National Stadium on Tuesday, PCB media director Samiul Hasan, while updating on the unfortunate developments, said the owners of six franchises and the team managements have been taken on board, while reminding them of their responsibilities.
“The PSL organising committee have told them to exercise extra caution and none have been asked to go in self-isolation. They been reminded to assure proper measures are being taken and the standard operating procedures are being adhered to,” Sami said. “Since the case of Fawad came positive, 244 PCR tests were undertaken and out of them three were reported positive. All three will spend 10 days in quarantine during which best possible medical care will be provided. Initially, as announced on Monday night, we had planned to conduct the tests every four days but considering the gravity of the prevailing situation, it has now been decided to have the PCR tests done after every three days while rapid tests are also part of this process. Therefore, the next tests will be carried out on Thursday, then on Sunday and so forth to eliminate further cases.
“There are around 300 people who are part of the bio-secure bubble and they include the players, backroom staff, franchise owners, families, match officials and security officers. Moreover, PCR tests of PCB staff who are at the National Stadium and 112 members of the broadcasting team have been done,” he added. The PCB official pointed out that it is virtually impossible to investigate as how these breaches were committed.
“Look, one can never ascertain how this happened and what were the causes. PSL is not the only sporting competition to be struck by Covid-19. Breaches took place during the Australian Open [tennis championships] Formula One motor racing, NHL [National Hockey League], NFL [National Football League despite the bio-secure bubbles and some of the players reported positive. But every sport around the world is meeting the challenges and overcoming them by carrying out the events,” Sami stressed. “We have got to be realistic in understanding that life is extremely tough in the bubble and breaches do take place. But it does not mean that bubbles are weak or there are loopholes. We are trying to keep the PSL’s credibility, integrity and reputation intact. and it is everyone’s responsibility, particularly that of the PCB to ensure the credibility of the event remains unaffected.”
Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2021