Pakistan Super League hope to complete 2021 fixtures in the UAE

Season was suspended in March following an outbreak of Covid cases among players and staff

Pakistan Super League franchise bosses have confirmed their desire to shift the remaining matches for the 2021 season to the UAE.

The six teams have been in consultation with the Pakistan Cricket Board about the possibility of staging the rescheduled matches outside of Pakistan.

It is understood the PCB were scheduled to meet to discuss the idea this week.

The season was suspended at the start of March, by which stage 14 matches had been played, following an outbreak of Covid cases among players and staff.

Currently, the plan is to play the remaining matches between June 2 and June 20, in Pakistan.

However, cases of coronavirus have risen in the country in recent days, at a rate that is the highest since the first wave last year.

The franchises believe relocating the matches to the UAE would now be a prudent option.

Sameen Rana, the chief operating office of Lahore Qalandars, said the success of the 2020 IPL, as well as the Abu Dhabi T10, proves UAE's credentials for hosting biosecure events.

“We have been talking to the PCB for quite some time,” Rana said. “There was a view we should do it in UAE, simply because things in UAE are, to an extent, more manageable.

“UAE has proven it, hosting a full IPL, as well as the T10 event. At that time, PCB decided they wanted to have [the 2021 season] in Pakistan, which we respected.

“I fully understand and appreciate the PCB’s position, but I think we need to be pragmatic. We need to make sure we can do whatever is possible.

“UAE has done it. They have shown everyone how to do it. There is no harm in trying to learn from them, or trying to do it where people have already done it.”

The itinerary for the rescheduled games would coincide with temperatures rising in the UAE.

No international cricket or franchise event has ever been played in June in the Emirates, although domestic cricket does continue at that time of the year.

In addition to the weather, the logistics of air travel could also be problematic. Pakistan itself currently has limited air travel as a government directive to help combat the coronavirus.

Salman Iqbal, the owner of the Karachi Kings franchise, believes consideration should be paid to bringing the matches to the UAE soon.

“When coronavirus hit and the PSL was cancelled, people were really sad and upset,” Iqbal said.

“A lot of people suggested the IPL shouldn’t have happened, with people dying in India. But many people have said it should go on, as it brings a lot of light to people’s lives.

“I believe the latter. I believe that sport, especially cricket, can be a light at the end of a tunnel for us, and it should go on.

“The health and safety of everyone is of utmost importance, and that should not be compromised in any circumstances.

“Our stance is, if we are not able to secure the bio-bubble, as happened [in March], we should have it in Dubai. It is not about the location, it is about the bio-bubble conditions.”

Rana is cautious about the idea of the matches going ahead at all, given the surge in Covid cases in the subcontinent.

“The postponement of the IPL shows that, to organise a multiple team event in the Covid-environment is extremely challenging, if not impossible,” Rana said.

“With the kind of resources and money involved in IPL, they could have got the best of the best of everything that was needed.

“Unfortunately, Covid doesn’t care about how many arrangements your make.

“At the end of the day, the life of anyone – whether it be a player, groundstaff or a gatekeeper – is as important as anyone else in this world.

“We should be sensitive, and look after the people around us. It is my point of view that it is too risky to play cricket while people are dying around you.”

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS