‘Foreign players’ refusal to come to Pakistan amid Covid-19 may have caused PCB to mull alternative venue’
LAHORE: Former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Najam Sethi on Saturday said the foreign players’ refusal to come to Pakistan to play the remaining 20 matches of the HBL Pakistan Super League-6 amid a worsening Covid-19 situation may be the reason behind PCB’s decision to consider the UAE as an alternative venue for the matches.
“The permission from the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to hold the PSL matches as per the previous schedule [June 1-17] should not be a major issue for the PCB. But I think foreign players are not ready to visit Pakistan, which has been included in the red list of several countries in the backdrop of a global Covid-19 crisis,” Sethi, who is not only the pioneer of PSL but also made it a successful brand in three years, said while talking to Dawn.
“If PCB chairman [Ehsan] Mani goes to the prime minister as he has the access to meet the premier [the PCB patron], it will not be difficult [for him] to get the NCOC permission to hold the remaining matches in Karachi,” Sethi said.
“But I think the PCB will be praying the NCOC does not grant the permission, because in that case it [PCB] will have a strong justification to shift the matches to the UAE as in this scenario, later it will not face any objections from the auditor general or NAB, which can investigate the decision of shifting the matches from Karachi to the UAE.”
It may be mentioned here that the PCB and all the six PSL franchises on Friday held a virtual meeting and preferred Dubai as the new venue despite the fact that still the NCOC had not given its final decision to the PCB, to hold the matches in Karachi or not.
In fact, the former chairman said, the PCB had made a terrible mistake by stopping the league midway in Karachi on March 4. “The remaining 20 matches could have been held with a solid bio-secure bubble without spectators.”
The PSL-6 successfully continued in Karachi from Feb 20 to March 2 before seven Covid-19 cases were reported within two days. The show was going on so successfully that the NCOC, on a PCB request, on Feb 24 also allowed 50 per cent spectators in the stadium.
Earlier, the NCOC had permitted the PCB only 20 per cent entry of the fans into the National Stadium, Karachi and Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore. Then reports emerged saying that for the playoffs and the final the PCB was even allowed 100% fans.
However, poor management on part of the PCB at the teams’ hotel where the players and officials had easy access to friends and visitors, clearly violating SOPs of the bio-secure bubble, hit the successful show after as many as seven positive Covid-19 cases at the league were reported.
Meanwhile, Sethi said it was no good news for the PSL that twice its schedule had been postponed due to Covid-19, emphasising due to such decisions the value of the league had been affected badly. While acknowledging that the Covid-19 situation was not good he said had the PCB maintained a solid bio-secure bubble in Karachi, it would have avoided the worst situation that emerged later.
When asked had it not been better if the PCB altogether abandoned the PSL-6 edition, Sethi reckoned that move would have involved the PCB in different legal cases. However, he said shifting the venue from Karachi to Dubai would cost heavily both to the franchises as well as the PCB, adding it would not be an easy task.
“In case of abandoning the PSL all contracts with different stakeholders will be disturbed and the PCB would have to pay heavy fines. And [on the other hand] if the league is shifted to Dubai, the PCB will also need to pay a heavy cost of hiring the stadium and booking hotels there,” Sethi concluded.
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2021