Exclusive: PSL franchise owners Iqbal, Afridi thank UAE for support
PCB received all approvals from local authorities to resume PSL in the UAE
In the end, the drama over staging the PSL in the UAE felt like a nail-biting last-over finish of a Twenty20 game with the gloriously unpredictable Pakistan reaching the finish line in the most dramatic of fashions.
And the legions of fans heaved a collective sigh of relief after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) ended days of intense speculation over the fate of the Pakistan Super League on Thursday.
The PCB announced on Thursday that they had got all the approvals from the UAE government to resume the suspended T20 league in Abu Dhabi — barely 24 hours after admitting that they would “have no other option but to request postponement of the remaining 20 matches if we do not receive clarity by Thursday afternoon”.
But Wasim Khan, PCB Chief Executive, declared on Thursday that all the roadblocks had been cleared for the resumption of a league that was suspended in March after just 14 matches due to Covid-19 cases in the bio-bubble.
“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,” Khan said in a PCB statement.
“We are grateful to the UAE government, National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, Emirates Cricket Board 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.”
The PCB had initially planned to stage the remaining 20 matches at the National Stadium in Karachi from June 1. But with Pakistan bracing for a second wave of Covid-19 infections, the cricket board accepted a proposal from the six franchises to bring the event to the UAE.
One of the franchises that had advocated the move to the UAE right from the start was Karachi Kings.
And Salman Iqbal, the owner of Karachi Kings, thanked the local authorities for their support.
“It’s very encouraging actually, thanks to the Abu Dhabi government, and the ECB. You know the option of all the three venues — Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah — was actually open to us,” Iqbal told Khaleej Times.
Iqbal then revealed the logistical challenges faced by the Pakistan board and the franchises.
“There was a huge logistical issue that we had to face with people coming from India, South Africa, you know players, coaches, technicians and the government has been fabulous in accommodating all of them even though they are coming from different countries. It’s quite encouraging and satisfying actually.”
But Iqbal admitted that there would be a slight delay in resuming the league.
“I think the schedule is going to come out tomorrow. As far as I have been told, the first match will be on the fifth of June,” Iqbal informed.
“The final will on June 20, so it’s the same date, because the Pakistan team will have to go to England also. There will be at least four or five or even six double headers (to get all the matches),” he said.
The players, Iqbal informed, have already started assembling in Pakistan.
“It’s a 10-day quarantine. And the foreign players, most of them are flying to Pakistan to join the teams. Some of them (foreign players) will fly directly to Dubai and then travel to Abu Dhabi for quarantine.”
Finally, Iqbal hailed the efforts taken by the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) in paving the way for PSL’s return to the UAE.
“NCEMA has done a great job in managing everything. And the ECB also came forward. In fact, the whole PSL team, has been in the UAE, working tirelessly even during the Eid holidays. This is the result of the tireless efforts of the PCB team and the ECB team.”
Meanwhile, Javed Afridi, the owner of Peshawar Zalmi, was delighted after the PCB finally got the approval from the UAE authorities, ending an anxious wait for all the stakeholders.
“Dair aayed, drust aayed (better late than never),” Afridi told Khaleej Times.
Afridi says the league’s return to the UAE that hosted its first four editions (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019) proves why this country has set a new benchmark in terms of hosting elite sports events amid a raging pandemic.
“Again PSL in the UAE means that the world has acknowledged their Covid-19 arrangements to stage mega events like the PSL. Credit goes to the UAE leadership,” Afridi said.
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