RAPID escalation in the number of coronavirus cases has led to the postponement of the Pakistan Super League’s sixth edition, sparking anger and disappointment among millions of fans, besides causing heavy monetary losses. The league’s first leg, which was being played in Karachi, came to an abrupt halt amid reports of at least nine players and officials falling victim to the virus over the past three days. The bio-secure bubble was not foolproof to begin with, and SOPs were abandoned as players mingled freely with guests at team hotels while cricket officials and family members of franchise owners frequented the dugouts exacerbating the situation. Such scenes were enough to set alarm bells ringing. But it was a while before the Pakistan Cricket Board was rudely jolted out of its slumber. By that time it was too late. The catastrophic end to PSL-6 was yet again due to the gross mismanagement of the PCB; as the governing body for Pakistani cricket, it is expected to have the required skills to prevent such a crisis or at least limit its fallout. It was only last December that the PCB oversaw similar chaos during the team’s New Zealand tour. It should have ensured that no stone was left unturned in the implementation of strict Covid-19 protocols for its flagship event whose standing and popularity have been severely hit by the abrupt postponement. Unfortunately, it has not learned from its mistakes. The PCB was also found wanting when it came to setting terms for the franchises that were leniently dealt with, even though their players and staff flouted SOPs. Ridiculously short three-day quarantine periods were mandated for international players, which is laughable in the midst of the pandemic.
Nevertheless, some quarters have questioned the postponement of the entire event, pointing out that a curtailed version of the PSL would have been preferable and that extended breaks between matches, the observance of strict measures and far fewer numbers of fans in the stadium could still have provided some enjoyment to the cricket-hungry public. Another window of opportunity for the PSL’s sixth edition to complete its remaining matches this year seems unlikely, mainly due to the packed schedule of the players in 2021. However, if prospects improve in the coming months, the PCB would be well advised to make the event a worthwhile spectacle by putting in its best efforts to keep its appeal intact.
Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2021