The hugely successful and entertaining Pakistan Super League (PSL) extravaganza has come to an abrupt halt amid the growing threat of coronavirus, leaving millions of fans disappointed. The entertaining league has been delayed “with immediate effect” after seven people participating in the tournament had tested positive for COVID-19. In total, six players and one support staffer have tested positive in the last three days. The pandemic, though, is threatening to spoil all that. Let’s take an in-depth review of the postponement of the PSL and the bio-secure bubble breach by the cricketers.
This postponement however, was avoidable and is potentially a big loss for both cricket and the resultant revenue streams. The matches had been scheduled, advertisements bought out, sponsorships and players paid for; this delay requires a restructuring on all those levels. International players contracted to play the PSL have other commitments too; contracts with other leagues or at the very least, international call ups that they would be hard pressed to refuse. And while the decision to postpone the remaining matches is disappointing, it is very much understandable. We are in the midst of a pandemic, and the PSL marketing campaigns from all teams featured large scale celebrations; with celebrities and brand ambassadors eagerly posing with the players. This negligence falls squarely on the shoulders of the PCB and the administration of the teams. This is a mess that could have easily been avoided.
PCB Chief Executive Waseem Khan has said an investigation would be held by agencies from outside the PCB, which will not investigate itself. This sounds simple but the damage has been done. The tournament had just begun to reach stages where it fully involved and enthralled the public. Its postponement at this stage also opens up questions as to whether a window can be found this year to either finish the event by conducting the remaining games or hold a new tournament from the start. Questions will no doubt be asked about the precautions taken or not taken. The suggestion that players may have been infected when the ball went into the public and was thrown back into the playing field is something that should have been thought about before and guarded against by sanitizing the ball. This has been done in other countries.
Besides, allowing spectators into the stadium to fill 20 per cent of the seating capacity is unlikely to have gone without playing a role. It has turned out to be a premature decision. The PSL is not just a cricket festival for Pakistan, it means much more than that for the whole nation. The PCB should have done everything to keep it safe from the coronavirus onslaught. But the genome has played the spoilsport with the greatest cricket gala in the country yet again.