Coronavirus: It took a pandemic to knock PSL 2020 out of its stride

A tournament born in the UAE four years ago has overcome many obstacles to bring top-level cricket back home to Pakistan

Is anybody better at ploughing on regardless than Pakistan cricket?

This is the administration who managed to launch a league entirely in exile – and saw it thrive.

Ever since the first ball was bowled in the Pakistan Super League in 2016 - 2,000kms from home in Dubai - its path has seldom run smooth.

It was birthed in the UAE four years ago because players from overseas were a long way from being confident about touring Pakistan.

PSL managed one game at home the following season, the final in Lahore.

That was thanks to an operation involving more than 10,000 security personnel, no vehicles within 2kms of the stadium, HD facial recognition CCTV, and a makeshift hospital in the adjacent hockey stadium.

Then, last year, everyone was set to decamp from the UAE for the largest tranche of PSL matches to take place in Pakistan so far, when conflict escalated in Kashmir.

Even then, the competition scarcely missed a beat. At short notice, all the matches were moved to one centre – Karachi – and the show went on.

So well, in fact, that the administrators resolved not to return to UAE again.

They did not need to, and the supporters in Pakistan have been starved of seeing a product like this in the flesh for too long.

Now, it has taken a global pandemic finally to knock the PSL out of its stride.

It tried its best to limp on. First, by banning spectators from attending, then abbreviating its play-off schedule, before, on the morning of its semi-finals, succumbing to the inevitable.

Did the 2020 PSL stick at it too long? Was it foolhardy to persist when virtually all major sports events elsewhere were shutting down as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus?

“Perhaps the decision could have been taken earlier,” said Shahid Afridi, who has seen most things in a professional career that is now in its 26th year.

Pakistan recorded its first cases on February 26, six days after the tournament’s start.

Just under three weeks later, with two days to go in its by-now truncated schedule, play was finally ceased, after the league itself had its first suspected case.

Alex Hales, already returned home to the UK, had gone into self-isolation after contracting a fever and cough.

It has been pointed out plenty of times in recent days that sport is just a triviality.

A much-loved distraction, of course, but persisting with it in the face of all that has been going on would have been misguided.

As Ben Dunk, arguably the star of this season, put it as he got ready to head home: "There's more to life than cricket.

“Hopefully see you all again soon. Look after each other.”

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