The Pakistan Cricket Board announced on Thursday that the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 6 has been delayed "with immediate effect" after seven people participating in the tournament tested positive for Covid-19.
The PCB said the decision had been taken out of consideration for the health and wellbeing of all participants in the tournament.
"Following a meeting with the team owners and considering the health and wellbeing of all participants is paramount, the Pakistan Cricket Board has decided to postpone the HBL Pakistan Super League 6 with immediate effect. The decision was made after seven cases were reported in the competition, which had started on 20 February," the cricket body said in a press release.
The PCB will concentrate on "safe and secure passage" for the participants and is set to arrange repeat PCR tests, vaccines, and isolation facilities for the six franchises.
Addressing a press conference later in the day, PCB Chief Executive Wasim Khan said today was a "very challenging day" for the PCB, stakeholders and fans of cricket.
He said the SOPs for PSL 6 were decided after the successful staging of two Test series, a national T20 tournament, as well as the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. "It was a great disappointment for us that we found ourselves in a situation where neither us nor others are able to provide what we need to provide and that is the full protection for players," he added.
Khan said the Board and franchise owners had also considered the option of halting the matches for five days "until we were able to make sense of what was going on and see whether we could move forward".
But "there was a strong consensus that it was untenable to continue and based on the fact that it was outside of our and others' reasonable areas, because of what had taken place," he added.
After seven players tested positive, Khan said, there was a concern that the virus would spread among other participants of the league. "That for us became a prime concern and was a huge concern for the franchises, hence we made the decision to postpone the event," he added, saying the PCB will be looking at other time windows and it hoped to complete the event before the end of the year.
Khan said cricket authorities were currently "carefully and slowly exiting players from our environment so that we can safely get them out" and they can travel to their destinations.
The PCB CEO acknowledged that the bio-secure bubble could not be maintained as it should have been but said the situation should not result in a "blame game". "This is a collective effort that we all had a responsibility to police and self-police that environment; unfortunately we weren't able to do it effectively enough hence we find ourselves in this situation today," he stressed.
He noted that biosecurity was a matter of "trust" and major decisions became inevitable when "players are affected and players start to lose confidence".
"Building trust again is going to take some time [and] some effort but we are determined to learn from the mistakes that were made. Hopefully everybody will learn from the mistakes that were made to make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen again," he said.
The PCB confirmed earlier in the day that three additional players from two different teams had tested positive for the coronavirus, adding they will now undergo self-isolation for 10 days.
The players had been tested in the afternoon after they showed symptoms, according to the statement. They had not been part of the sides that played in yesterday’s PSL 6 double-header that featured Karachi Kings vs Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators vs Multan Sultans.
A day earlier, the PCB decided to offer Sars-coronavirus vaccine doses to all participants of PSL 6, becoming the first cricket board to do so.
The decision was made in the line with the PCB’s duty of care policy and to ensure all participants of the league remain safe and healthy during the event, which was set to conclude on March 22.
Last month, a player from one of the PSL 6 franchises had tested positive for Covid-19, while another player and an official had been placed in a three-day quarantine after violating bio-security protocols. The PCB had not identified the trio.
Earlier this week, Islamabad United's Fawad Ahmed also tested positive. United's match with Quetta Gladiators, scheduled to be held on March 1, was postponed as a result while other players were tested.
The PCB had later announced the test results of both Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United squads had returned negative.
However, the very next day, two more overseas cricketers and a local backroom staff member also tested positive.
Meanwhile, Faizan Aslam, the CEO of 'Bookme.pk', which had partnered with the PSL for ticketing, said that the process of refunds would also be carried out through the online portal.
According to Aslam, fans would be able to claim their refunds through the portal and that the funds would be deposited into their online or mobile banking accounts. He added that it could take up to a week to process the refunds.