PCB names independent panel to probe PSL bubble fiasco

Published March 8, 2021
The Pakistan Cricket Board on Sunday announced a two-member independent fact-finding panel, comprising of top medical experts to investigate the causes behind the bio-secure bubble breaches. — File photo
The Pakistan Cricket Board on Sunday announced a two-member independent fact-finding panel, comprising of top medical experts to investigate the causes behind the bio-secure bubble breaches. — File photo

KARACHI: Three days after the shambolic postponement of the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL)’s sixth edition following seven Covid-19 positive cases surfacing, the Pakistan Cricket Board on Sunday announced a two-member independent fact-finding panel, comprising of top medical experts to investigate the causes behind the bio-secure bubble breaches.

The panel — which includes infectious disease experts Dr Syed Faisal Mahmood of Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi and Dr Salma Muhammad Abbas from the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Lahore — is being tasked to submit its findings and recommendations directly to the PCB chairman Ehsan Mani by end of March.

According to a PCB media release the panel will review the bio-secure protocols as well as the bylaws that were put in place during the franchise-based Twenty20 tournament before it was abruptly halted following completion of the 14 of the 20 preliminary-round fixtures at the National Stadium in Karachi.

While the fate of remainder of the competition — with another 16 matches still to be played at the league phase plus the playoffs — now hangs in the balance as PCB attempts to find a window in either June or September in between national side’s backbreaking international commitments, the PSL 6 fiasco has already thrown up its first casualty on Saturday when Dr Sohail Saleem, head of cricket board’s medical department, opted to step down.

Dr Sohail headed the medical team which was supervising the standard operating procedures put in put place to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic during the bio-secure bubble. But despite stringent measures, six players — Islamabad United quartet of Fawad Ahmed (the first positive case), Lewis Gregory, Hasan Ali and Hussain Talat, Tom Banton of Quetta Gladiators and Lahore Qalandars’ Tom Abell — a backroom staff member (Karachi Kings’ fielding coach Kamran Khan) reported positive with symptoms of the virus and all of them were put in quarantine following their results of PCR tests.

PCB chief executive Wasim Khan said during Thursday’s media conference at the National Stadium that whenever the PSL 6 resumes, it would be held under a bio-secure bubble that would be outsourced to avert possibilities of further discomfiture for Pakistan cricket.

Dr Faisal and Dr Salma has been assigned to carry-out a holistic and detailed review of the Covid-19 SOPs for the HBL PSL 6, identify any gaps and advise as to the reasons why the bio-secure environment did not remain Covid-free during the opening two weeks of the event.

“The PCB takes the health and safety of its players, player support personnel and match officials seriously. We have demonstrated our duty of care in the [home] international series against Zimbabwe and South Africa, as well as during the nine domestic events in which we successfully staged 220 matches in Multan, Rawalpindi and Karachi,” Mani said in the PCB media release. “The independent panel of two distinguished experts has been appointed with the sole purpose of an honest, constructive and objective review.

“The panel will speak with all the relevant stakeholders, including the event and hotel staff, medical and compliance officers, team players and managements, so that we can get a better understanding how the cases occurred. The independent panel will make such recommendations as it considers appropriate,” Mani added.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2021

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