PSL Fiasco


It’s all in a word. Negligence. Nothing else can help millions of fans understand why booming entertainment was brought to an unfortunate end. After a miserably short spell, the sixth edition of the Pakistan Super League was postponed amid rage and tears. Much has been said about the whys and hows but the official cancellation reason was the rapid escalation in the number of coronavirus cases among international players. At least nine players and team officials had fallen victim. The catastrophic end still sounds eerie. Yet, the financial implications hang even heavier as PCB stands to suffer from shattered trust like never before. With dishonoured global television contracts, who in their right mind would invest again in broadcasting PCB events? Reluctant franchise owners and shaky international players are highly likely to impact the confidence of cricket teams due to tour Pakistan in the coming months. More disastrous would be the prospects for PSL to grow an international presence. As expected, cricket aficionados over the world were left in an unfathomable position of being deprived of watching the series that had finally scratched at the deafening silence. After all, nearly 120 million viewers were attracted to screens around the world last season.
Despite what Ramiz Raja and Zainab Abbas had proclaimed, PCB’s cavalier approach to the COVID biosecurity bubble was doomed from the beginning. Hence, its credibility in organising cricket during a pandemic and managing health risks has been badly battered. It is not 2020 when little was known about the virus. There would be far less sympathy shown to the administration this year considering it had the best part of nine months to roll out effective operating procedures and pull off the series without much of a hitch. Our players’ previous COVID transgressions during tours in England and New Zealand had already landed us with a sticky wicket. Whatever quality security protocols and SOPs had been established, they were only good if the people followed them to the letter. Our lack of seriousness was glaring right from the beginning when players and supporters were seen freely interacting in the opening ceremony. Yes, the “groove” and razzmatazz were there in all glory, but there was little space for this partying in the new world order.
Instead of booking one entire hotel for everyone involved with the event, team members were locked in biosecure hotels while officials were scattered in other places. Even the team hotels were regularly visited by other guests who made it a point to hang around players. International audiences became witness to similar breaches in grounds where the same pathways were used by players and supporters. Fans thronged the stands without a care in the world. If this is not criminal neglect, what is? The absolute disregard of COVID regulations shown by cricket officials is a different tale altogether. Their family members and friends–in essence, anyone with a golden ticket–frequented the dugouts.
If the governing body could not find the courage to restrain its staff and franchise owners from flouting the rules they had set themselves, how could it reboot Pakistani cricket on foreign grounds in post-pandemic times?
Lenient terms and conditions and ridiculously short quarantine periods on top of reliance on negative COVID tests alone: PCB’s protocols were nothing but laughable. Gross negligence and criminal mismanagement have turned a super sports spectacle into a superspreader event. It can only be hoped that the board would come up with a way to reschedule the next leg–however short–of its star-studded event with far strict SOPs. To keeping the PSL spark alive!