The PCB has approached the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to host the remaining games of the rescheduled 2021 edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the UAE. The original plan had been to play the matches in Karachi, but the PCB has decided against it following a request from the six franchises as well as advice from the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC), which asked the board to avoid playing in Karachi because of the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country.
Upon the franchises' request to move the matches out of Pakistan, the PCB met with all the teams via video conference to discuss the financial implications of postponing the tournament. The PCB has agreed to look beyond Karachi, with UAE as a preferred venue for the games. The UAE was where the PSL began, its inaugural edition in 2016 held there while international cricket was not taking place in Pakistan.
Karachi had originally been announced as the venue for the tournament and even till last week, the PCB was proceeding on the basis that tournament would be held there, with the board making arrangements for a hotel. But earlier this week, the PCB met with the NCOC, whose forecast of the Covid situation in Pakistan over the next 20 days wasn't reassuring. The NCOC informed the PCB there might be a rise in cases post-Eid, and that the government might subsequently enforce a stricter lockdown in the country. Already a nationwide lockdown has begun from today, to be in place until May 15.
"We had an interactive and productive meeting in which we considered a number of factors," Wasim Khan, the PCB chief executive, said. "While the UAE has emerged as a preferred venue, a number of challenges remain, which will be worked through over the coming days. We remain committed to doing everything possible to complete the HBL PSL 6."
The tournament was initially slated to start from June, but with the change of venue, the PCB will work on a revised schedule. The window to host the tournament is unlikely to alter too much though, as Pakistan are scheduled to begin a tour of England from June 23. Though the PCB and PSL have both agreed to playing in UAE, a final confirmation will be made only when the franchises give their approval upon seeing the revised opportunity costs of playing abroad.
"The PCB will carry out a detailed financial and risk assessment as well as cost analysis before reporting back to the franchises, who will then review before a decision on the event venue is confirmed," the PCB said.
As reported by ESPNcricinfo, the franchises had written a letter to the board last week, asking for the tournament to be played in the Emirates.
The 2021 edition of the PSL was suspended after 14 games - played between February 20 and March 3, all in Karachi - following an outbreak of cases among players and support staff. After a date for resumption was finalised - June 2 to June 20 - the franchises took part in a replacement draft to plug holes in their line-ups because a number of overseas players would not be able to take part in the games on the new dates.
The changed situation with the pandemic, however, made franchises nervous about the situation, which led to them approaching the PCB.
Pakistan, meanwhile, has announced a decision to curtail inbound flights to the country from May 5 to May 20.
A move to the UAE would not be without its own logistical and operational issues, though. Flights to the country from Pakistan are currently operating at a severely reduced frequency. And June is not a month in which top-level cricket is often played in the UAE, because of the oppressive heat at that time of the year.