The coronavirus pandemic has turned all the world’s industries upside down and sports has been no exception.
The resumption of sporting events after the outbreak of the pandemic has been nothing short of a blessing for the fans as well as the players but its success was contingent upon whether the players would comply with the COVID protocols or not. There can be no denying that staying inside the bubble, not interacting with outsiders and playing in empty or half-empty stadiums would take a physical and psychological toll on them but it was expected of them to be acutely aware of their responsibilities and not to contravene the rules. However, the reality was different as the matter was handled carelessly and scores of players flouted the restrictions. The same was the case in PSL 2021, as a consequence of which, it has screeched to an indefinite halt.
The guidelines explicitly mentioned that anyone who attends the game would be required to wear a face mask throughout the duration of the game and observe social distancing. However, as the screengrab from one of the matches below shows, the implementation of these rules was nowhere to be seen.
Even worse, celebrities and social media influencers like Shahveer Jafry and Dananeer Mobeen were seen interacting with the players and team owners making an absolute mockery of the health protocols. None of the breaches mentioned thereof went unpunished thereby setting a wrong precedent.
Following the news of Australian leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed testing positive for the virus, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should have been more cautious and stringent with restrictions but instead, Multan Sultans bowling coach Azhar Mahmood was allowed to throw a birthday party that was also attended by a number of players. This surge in the virus cases, due in large part to management’s carelessness (six players and one member from the team officials tested positive), behooved the PCB to postpone the league who had no option but to swallow the bitter truth that they have been incompetent in ensuring that the tournament is smooth sailing.
The blame-shifting game instantly began, media outlets started peddling hyperbolic and even false reports and overseas players (on the condition of anonymity) averred that the bio-secure bubble was not well-maintained. PSL is in its boom years and is improving over time but untoward incidents like these will blemish its image.
Responding to the backlash in his presser, PCB’s Chief Executive Wasim Khan admitted that they weren’t equal to the task.
“It was a great disappointment for us that we found ourselves in a situation where neither us nor others are able to provide what we need to provide and that is the full protection for players,” Wasim said.
“This is a collective effort that we all had a responsibility to actually police and self-police that environment. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do it effectively enough. Hence, we find ourselves in this situation today,” he added.
As in, the uppermost task on PCB’s plate now is to find a window in a jam-packed schedule in which it can hold the remaining games of the league. Pakistan is set to play South Africa in April followed by a tour of Zimbabwe but reports suggest that Pakistan will push these tours to accommodate the remaining matches of the league.
I’m no epidemiologist thus it would be naïve to comment on the spread of the virus and measures to mitigate the virus but it is not rocket science to understand that carelessness over a deadly contagious pandemic is downright buffoonery. There’s no point in crying over spilt milk but whenever the PSL resumes, PCB should ensure that it learns from its mistakes and the remaining tournament goes without any chaos untoward incident.