PSL could resume in May

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Karachi

What remains of the 2021 Pakistan Super League might end up being played as soon as May this year, setting up a potential direct clash with the latter stages of the Indian Premier League.

Given the packed nature of the international calendar, culminating with the T20 World Cup in October and November, ESPNcricinfo understands that if the PSL is to be completed this year, May is the only window for it. Otherwise the season may be in danger of being voided.

The PCB CEO expressed confidence they would find time to complete the league, saying they were already looking at various options.

“We will be looking at other windows and we hope to play the event at a later time,” Wasim Khan said.

“What’s taking place right now is that we are carefully and slowly exiting, exiting players from our environment so that we can safely get them out and they can start to travel to wherever they need to travel in terms of moving forward.

But we want to continue and finish the PSL.” The PCB had to break the previous edition of the tournament into two blocks as well.

PSL 2020 was suspended in March, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the remaining matches, which were knockouts, were rescheduled to November last year with Karachi Kings crowned champions.

“As we did with the fifth season, we found a window and we finished those matches,” Khan said. “It’s firmly our belief that we will continue to aim to do that and find a window at a later date. We had to deal with a minor breach at the beginning and we’ve done everything we possibly could.

But with any assumptions for a bio-secure bubble, it takes partnerships, it takes discipline, it takes self policing. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that effectively enough, and that is why we find ourselves in this situation.”

Khan admitted it was “a difficult day” for Pakistan, and that the PSL’s postponement would make adverse international headlines.

With the PCB hoping to host a number of international sides later this year, the likelihood of those tours proceeding hinged in no small part on the board’s ability to complete the Pakistan Super League without setbacks.

There will inevitably be a sense of much of the hard work building those perceptions up over the last few months having gone entirely to waste.

“Seven players contracted the [Covid-19] virus since the 27th of February,” Khan said. “Once the players become affected, it becomes an issue.

There was a trickle effect of that happening over the last few days. That for us became a prime concern and it was a huge concern for the franchises.

“The situation was such that it is now outside ours and others’ reasonable control. When players are affected, and players start to lose confidence, then it all comes apart.

The bio-secure bubble is all about trust. There has to be trust for players and all the partners working together to make it all work and self-police it.

This will make international news; a lot of work has gone into this last premier event of our calendar, and we’ve had to put it off.

We remain resilient and confident that with the support of the franchises to make sure we complete the remaining games before the end of the year.”

“When players are affected, and players start to lose confidence, then it all comes apart. The bio-secure bubble is all about trust.”

Khan acknowledged that the faith stakeholders had put into the PSL and the PCB had not been fully rewarded, and the process to begin rebuilding it required both time and effort.

That appeared to be a warning that not all the foreign players who had registered to be a part of the PSL this time around might be willing to return if and when the league resumes, and that the PCB had a lot of work ahead of it to make sure the tournament remained an international event.

“There will be an issue of trust. We need to accept that the fans in particular have supported Pakistan cricket through tough times.

Building back that trust will take some time and effort, but we’ll be willing to learn from the mistakes that were made; I hope that everyone will be able to learn from what’s happened.

“If you really want to carve out a window, you can. But we have got a lot of cricket happening. You’ll have to think of player welfare, too. There are windows we’ll explore with the franchises to make this work.

Trust will need to be built, there needs to be better partnerships to ensure everyone plays their part in policing this environment.”—Agencies