Exclusive: UAE an 'option' to stage remaining PSL matches, says Salman Iqbal
The Karachi Kings owner says the PSL management could have done a better job in dealing with the Covid-19 situation
After the 2021 Pakistan Super League (PSL) was suspended due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the teams, Salman Iqbal, the Karachi Kings owner, hinted at bringing the remaining matches of the high-profile T20 league to the UAE later this year.
The PSL was suspended indefinitely by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Thursday after the league, which started on February 20, was hit by three new Covid-19 positive cases, taking the tally to seven.
The PCB announcement came after 14 of the 20 preliminary games were hosted in Karachi.
And the Karachi Kings owner Iqbal revealed that he had, during the owners’ meeting with the cricket board on Thursday, asked the PCB to take the remaining matches to the UAE.
But moving the whole tournament immediately from Pakistan to the UAE amid a pandemic has its challenges.
The PCB, eventually, decided to suspend the tournament.
But the UAE, according to Iqbal, remains an option when the cricket board decides to host the remaining matches later this year.
During an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Iqbal acknowledged that the resounding success of the 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) and other world-class sporting events amid the pandemic bears testimony to the UAE’s status as one of the safest countries in the world.
“I made a suggestion before the PSL started to shift the tournament to the UAE. But they wanted to do it in Pakistan because the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) were very strong,” Iqbal told Khaleej Times on Thursday.
“And even now, we suggested that instead of cancelling the event, move it to Dubai. But the problem is everyone involved in the tournament will need to go into isolation again for seven days or 10 days as per the rules in the UAE.
“The players would not have been able to sustain such isolation again immediately. So that’s why we have suspended it. But I think for the next plan, yes, the UAE could be an option.”
The team owners and the PCB’s next plan of action will be to look at a new window to stage the rest of the matches.
“We were talking about that in the meeting. First we figured out that the season had to be suspended. The second step was to manage all the foreign and national players’ travel, so they reach home safe. And after all that, we have to figure out the best time or the window to have the remaining matches of the season,” said Iqbal.
The 2020 edition of the PSL was also suspended in March last year due to the Covid-19 outbreak. When the tournament resumed last November, it was Karachi Kings that won the title.
But Iqbal believes the PCB could have easily avoided the situation this time.
“I think the SOPs were not followed, the (Pakistan Super League) management was poor. They could have done a much better job,” Iqbal said.
“Yes, it’s disappointing, not only for the owners, but for the crowds and the cricket lovers all around the world. It’s a big disappointment. But, of course, safety comes first.”
Iqbal also revealed that big names like Dale Steyn (Quetta Gladiators) and Andy Flower (Multan Sultans head coach) were worried about the Covid-19 situation during the tournament.
“They were worried. But we made sure that the SOPs were tightened. The first Covid incident happened three days ago. But I think the best solution that we decided on today in the PSL meeting at 11am (PST) was to suspend the tournament,” Iqbal said.
“We wanted to keep the players safe. Now the PSL management is working on the travel plan to safely send the foreign players to their respective countries after doing the fresh Covid-19 tests.”
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