PSL playoffs postponed amid coronavirus fears
The Pakistan Super League, which had tweaked the original schedule to shorten it by four days with an eye on the worsening COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) situation, has been postponed. According to a tweet by the official PSL handle, the semi-final games, which were scheduled to be played on Tuesday, and the final, slotted for Wednesday, will be rescheduled.
Soon after the news became public, Salman Iqbal, the owner of Karachi Kings, one of the four sides in the semi-finals, told ESPNcricinfo, “I have been asking for it to be postponed for the past two days, as we [PSL] was the only cricket going on. But, anyway, it’s a very good decision by the franchise owners and the PCB management.”
ESPNcricinfo also caught up with Sameen Rana, owner of Lahore Qalandars, another of the sides to have qualified for the final four, who said, “We respect the PCB decision. The health and safety of players and officials is of utmost importance. It’s unfortunate, but considering the situation, we understand the rationale.”
As such, the organisers had taken a decision on March 13 to tweak the schedule of the tournament following the premature departure of a number of overseas players and the increased risk in Pakistan, canceling the four-match playoff stage (March 17 to 22) and introducing two semi-finals (as a double-header) and the final on March 17 and 18. More players have left Pakistan since then.
There are 184 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pakistan according to the latest update, with two in Punjab (of which Lahore is a part), and the number has been going up with each passing day.
The Punjab province is under Section 144, a law that bans all private and public sports activities as well as other public gatherings. The PCB had taken special permission to have the remaining games behind closed doors, but Gaddafi Stadium still had a large presence of media persons during the last few games, and post-match presentation ceremonies and press conferences have been fairly crowded with representatives of the PCB and other stakeholders in attendance.