What postponing the PSL means for Pakistan cricket

It’s difficult to overestimate the impact of Thursday’s dramatic developments for Pakistan cricket. The decision to indefinitely postpone the Pakistan Super League strikes at the heart of one of the most salient buds of optimism that had begun to pervade cricket in the country. It throws a T20 franchise competition that didn’t exist five years ago, and rose to become arguably the world’s second-most valuable league of its kind, into some jeopardy; the possibility, at least, that this season may never be completed looks the likeliest scenario.

Since Fawad Ahmed tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week, organisers scrambled to try and get a potential outbreak under control, but it was already too late. Further cases were discovered at several different franchises, meaning the league wasn’t just dealing with one outbreak, but any number of them. The decision, taken late on Wednesday to vaccinate all participants, in the desperate hope it would stop the outbreak in its track, looked neither feasible nor scientific; vaccination takes weeks to have an impact. On Thursday morning, when further cases at various franchises turned up, the inevitable happened: the league was off.

Compared to last year’s postponement when the pandemic first hit, this is different – and by an order of magnitude – more damaging on two counts. To the PCB’s credibility as a board that can responsibly organise cricket during a pandemic, and to the chances of this season ever being completed. Little was known about the virus when one player displayed symptoms and tested positive last year, and even less about the measures necessary to prevent an outbreak. Cricket across most of the world was being called off, and the PCB was desperately trying to get through the final few games of 2020’s season, even getting rid of the playoffs to try and shave a few days off the competition’s length. Even when the season had to be postponed, there was an inevitability it would be back on at some point; there were only four games remaining, and with most teams unable to play almost any cricket due to global restrictions, there would always be time to carve out a week-long window.

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