PCB’s failure to ensure Covid protocols led to postponement: Sethi


LAHORE: Former chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Najam Sethi, the man who launched the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) six-year back and worked tirelessly to make it a world renowned brand, on Thursday lamented the way the league’s sixth chapter was deferred for an indefinite period due to seven Covid-19 cases and held the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) responsible for all the mess.

Speaking to Dawn, Sethi said: “The abrupt postponement of HBL PSL 6 will have a hugely negative impact on the league’s future and reports coming out are saying that the PCB failed to ensure strict observation of the SOPs as several franchise owners and their relatives, the players and PCB officials were clearly seen violating the SOPs at the stadium and some of them were seen sitting in the dugout which is preposterous.”

To a question Sethi agreed that the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) should have been taken on board for supervising the implementation of its SOPs, since the PSL is a national brand and a successful holding of it would have greatly enhanced the country’s image .

“Yes, if the NCOC had first permitted 20 per cent and then 50 per cent of spectators inside the stadium, and 100 per cent for the play-off matches, it should have deployed its own team to strictly ensure the Covid-19 protocols and the SOPs,” he argued.

Sethi also pointed out that late last year, when the Pakistan team toured New Zealand, the entire tour was strictly monitored by their health ministry and New Zealand Cricket had no role as far as Covid-19 SOPs were concerned.

“Look, the PCB has been involving a huge number of officials to provide security to the players and officials visiting Pakistan. In the same way NCOC must be involved in ensuring that everyone is following the SOPs as Covid-19 is a big threat for PSL, like any act of terrorism,” said Sethi.

He lamented how on the very first day of the PSL 6, the PCB had taken a quick U-turn by allowing Peshawar Zalmi captain Wahab Riaz and coach Darren Sammy to be part of their squad despite the fact that both had violated the SOPs.

When reminded that the PCB had clarified that appeals of Wahab and Sammy were accepted after they were tested negative along with their franchise owner Javed Latif, Sethi said as the symptoms of the disease could take several days to start the affect and for that purpose the isolation period of 10 to 14 days is advised by the experts. But in the cases of Wahab, Javed and Sammy, a quick U-turn was taken, violating the SOPs.

When asked about how much he estimated could be the financial damage the PCB may suffer due to the abrupt deferment of the league, Sethi said at this stage no one could predict the estimated amount, but it would be too high as the issues with the broadcasters, sponsors, franchises, players and officials would be raised in large number over the financial losses and for their compensation etc.

He said besides the financial losses, the trust deficit of all the stakeholders with the PCB may harm the credibility of the PSL and that might cause more damage to the league and create bad blood.

Sethi added that his niece also visited the team’s hotel and later told him that in the lift of the hotel, she saw some cricketers freely meeting the guests staying at the hotel and giving autographs and that was enough to tell how strictly the SOPs were being followed by the players.

He emphasised that massive damage control measure will be required to regain the confidence of all the stakeholders that the country had gained after tremendous efforts since 2015 which included hosting of Kenya, Zimbabwe, World XI, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh, the MCC team and organisation of all the PSL matches in Pakistan last year.

Later, in his Tweet, Sethi said: “We, the people, media, security agencies, franchises and players-built PSL brand with our sweat, blood and tears. The nation is reeling with despair and outraged at the criminal negligence by this PCB Admin that has disrupted the tournament.”