From bubble breaches to game postponements to the tournament being indefinitely suspended, here’s what happened between February 19 and March 4
The sixth edition of the Pakistan Super League has been postponed after a spate of positive Covid-19 tests – as many as seven players or officials have now returned positive tests in less than a week. Last season, as the pandemic began, the league had to cut short its fifth season, although it rescheduled the remaining matches and staged them in November 2020. This season has seen instances gradually build before the dramatic events of today eventually forced the tournament to be suspended, with less than half of its 34 games completed. Here is a timeline of how events came to a head.
A day before the start of the sixth season, a player from Lahore Qalandars tests positive for Covid-19 and is displaying symptoms. He is put into isolation for ten days.
One night before the opening match, Peshawar Zalmi coach Daren Sammy and captain Wahab Riaz breach the bio-secure bubble in place for all teams in Karachi hotel by meeting with their franchise owner Javed Afridi, who was not part of the bubble. The pair are told to go into a three-day quarantine and must return two negative tests before they can return to the team.
After Zalmi file an appeal with the PSL’s event committee for a concession, Sammy and Wahab are allowed to reintegrate with the squad, despite not having served the three-day quarantine period. The pair have returned two negative tests within 48 hours. The results of the second test arrive in the morning, delaying Peshawar’s departure for the stadium. Riaz later leads his side to a loss against Qalandars, with Sammy in the dugout.
The game between Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators is first delayed and then postponed to the following day after Fawad Ahmed returns a positive test. A statement from United says that Ahmed, who had begun showing symptoms, was put into isolation two days ago. That suggests it was on February 27, which means he would have gone into isolation soon after taking part in his first game of the season – against Zalmi. Rapid-fire tests are carried out on all other members of United and Gladiators, all returning negative tests.
All players and officials undergo PCR tests. The rescheduled game goes ahead and the PCB says it will not conduct testing every fourth day, instead of weekly as previously planned.
Two more players – including Tom Banton – and one support-staff member return positive tests. The PCB holds a meeting with franchises to reassure them and reiterates its message that players must stick to the protocols. The board says it is happy that their bubble protocols are secure, although it does acknowledge “life in a bubble is very difficult and managing it is also very tough. This is happening in other different sports in the world – NFL, NHL, Formula 1 or Australian Open – breaches do happen but that doesn’t mean the bubble is weak or there are loopholes.”
Franchise owners and the league’s management hold a meeting to chart a way forward for the league after the positive tests. One option discussed is to forego the Lahore leg and play out the entire season in Karachi. At least two franchises raise strong objections to that idea. The PCB also announces that it will offer vaccines to all players and officials.
Three more players test positive, and news comes in that Australian Dan Christian is leaving the tournament due to the Covid-19 cases. Soon after, the PCB says it is postponing the league with immediate effect. The board says the new cases were not from any of the teams who played in Wednesday’s double-header matches, which rules out players from Karachi Kings, Peshawar Zalmi, Multan Sultans or Quetta Gladiators.