The Pakistan Super League (PSL) is likely to resume on June 4 at the Zayed Cricket Stadium, after an intensive week of negotiations resulted in confirmation the event could go ahead in Abu Dhabi.
No spectators will be permitted entry to the matches. But the fact the competition will be going ahead at all is a triumph born from an extensive push by a variety of authorities in the capital in the five days since the end of the Eid holiday.
The T20 league was suspended at the start of March in Pakistan after a number of Covid cases were reported within the teams.
The remaining 20 matches were rescheduled, with a plan to start on June 1 in Karachi.
However, as coronavirus cases surged across the subcontinent, the six franchises lobbied the Pakistan Cricket Board to consider the UAE as a replacement venue instead.
On May 8, the request was made from the PCB to the Emirates Cricket Board to host the event, with Abu Dhabi seen as the most likely host for a single-venue competition.
Although the request was gladly received, events related to the pandemic immediately conspired against the proposal.
On May 10, it was announced that commercial flights from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal would all be stopped with two days.
The respective governing bodies persisted with planning, undeterred by the challenges.
On May 11 the proposal was completed and submitted to the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, but that was only considered on May 16, the first working day after the Eid break.
It took less than four working days – and nights, with calls being made as late as 1am at points this week – for the plans to be pared down, approved, and a decree issued.
The efforts appeared to have been in vain when it was announced on Wednesday that the franchises were bracing for a further postponement of the competition.
A decision to that effect was said to be likely, unless the teams “receive clarity” on a number of logistical issues by “close of business on Thursday”.
However, well before that deadline it was confirmed the competition would go ahead, as planned, in Abu Dhabi.
“We are delighted with this development as the remaining hurdles in the staging of the remaining HBL PSL 6 matches in Abu Dhabi have been overcome and all systems are now good to go,” Wasim Khan, the PCB chief executive, said.
“We are grateful to the UAE government, National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, [ECB] and Abu Dhabi Sports Council for their support and patronage in ensuring all final obstacles were removed, which has firmly put us in a position to complete our marquee event.”
Even though UAE football has taken its first steps to reintroduce crowds, there will not be any fan attendance at the PSL matches.
A limited number of supporters were permitted entry to the President’s Cup final at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on Sunday, in line with public health guidelines.
However, the application to the government authorities about staging the PSL did not include provision for supporters, given all the other logistical issues which already need to be navigated.
Those challenges still remain. While the bulk of the players will be flown in from Pakistan on charter flights from Lahore and Karachi, ahead of a quarantine period in their hotels on Saadiyat Island, other staff – including broadcast personnel - will be flying in from elsewhere.
The teams are having to revise their overseas player and coaching pools – even following the redraft for replacement players last month.
It is possible the altered conditions could lead to call ups for some of the UAE’s outstanding players.
“I take this opportunity to thank my staff for their untiring efforts and hard work that included sacrificing their Eid-ul-Fitr holidays in an effort to ensure the PCB honours its commitment to its fans to hold the remaining matches of the tournament in June,” Khan said.
“The holding of the remaining matches in Abu Dhabi will allow our fans to once again follow and support their favourite players and teams through our high-quality broadcast coverage of one of the most competitive cricket leagues in the world.”