PSL’s fate to be decided in PCB’s meeting with NCOC

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LAHORE: A final decision on the completion of the HBL Pakistan Super League season, whether to hold it in Karachi or to shift it to the back-up venue of the United Arab Emirates, will be taken during a meeting of the Pakistan Cricket Board and the National Command Operations Centre which is expected to be held this week.

The PCB had earlier announced that the remaining 20 matches of the current PSL season will be held in Karachi from June 1 to June 17. But Dawn has learnt that the rising Covid-19 cases in the country and the suspension of the Indian Premier League due to the virus situation in India has forced the PCB to review the situation.

Like the PSL, which was postponed midway through the season with 14 matches played from February 20 to March 3, the IPL was suspended on Tuesday after the emergence of positive Covid-19 cases in the bio-secure bubble created for the participating teams.

On Monday, the IPL postponed the game between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders, whose two players tested positive, before the Board of Cricket Control in India decided to suspend the world’s richest cricket tournament.

With the NCOC being the sole authority monitoring the Covid-19 situation in Pakistan, a fresh review is necessary to move forward with the remaining PSL season.

If the NCOC doesn’t allow the PSL, which involves more than 400 persons including players, officials and PCB staff, the PCB staff may consider shifting the event to the UAE.

A number of PSL franchise owners were quoted as saying in reports on Tuesday that the PCB should complete the tournament in the UAE.

Karachi Kings owner Salman Iqbal and Lahore Qalandars CEO Sameen Rana both told UAE’s The National that the virus situation as well as maintaining the bio-secure bubble was “more manageable” in the UAE.

But the PCB is concerned that shifting the PSL to the UAE will result in difficulties to host foreign teams especially with New Zealand due to tour later this year.

The PCB decided on the June window to complete the PSL season after a meeting with the franchise owners with the Pakistan team scheduled to tour England as soon as the league ends. There is no remaining window for the PCB to hold the PSL this year.

The PCB had hired the services of a UK-based company to implement the Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures in the bio-secure bubble and even that company is of the view that the UAE is the best venue as the Covid SOPs are followed very strictly in the Gulf state.

The UAE hosted the last season of the IPL after it was shifted from India and it also the back-up venue for this year’s ICC World Twenty20 which was slated to be held in India in October this year.

However, playing the remaining matches of the PSL in the UAE in June will coincide with stifling heat at that time of the year. No international cricket or a franchise league has been played in the UAE in June although domestic cricket is still played.