Pakistan Super League heads back to Abu Dhabi

The Pakistan Super League (PSL) will return to a familiar destination, Abu Dhabi, in order to complete a 2021 season that was suspended due to COVID-19.

The Twenty20 cricket competition was paused back in March, with 14 of its 34 matches played, after a breach of its bio-secure bubble resulted in a number of COVID-19 cases. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) subsequently said it would look to play its remaining matches in June in Karachi, but concerns over COVID-19 cases resulted in officials looking further afield.

On Wednesday, the PCB deferred a decision on the PSL for 24 hours after it couldn’t secure the necessary exemptions from the Abu Dhabi government to move the tournament to the United Arab Emirates. However, these exemptions, reported by ESPNcricinfo to include provisions for players, officials, broadcast and production staff flying in from India and South Africa, have now been secured.

The 2021 PSL is set to resume in June, with the remaining 20 matches of the tournament’s sixth edition taking place at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.  All 24 matches of the 2016 season, 23 matches of the 2017 season, 31 matches of the 2018 season and 26 matches of the 2019 season were played in the UAE.  

Sheikh Zayed Stadium (pictured) staged four matches for the 2019 edition and PCB chief executive, Wasim Khan, said: “We are grateful to the UAE government, National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, Emirates Cricket Board and Abu Dhabi Sports Council for their support and patronage in ensuring all final obstacles were removed, which has firmly put us in a position to complete our marquee event.

“The PCB, in consultation with the team owners, will now work at pace to finalise all event-related arrangements, details of which will be shared in due course. The holding of the remaining matches in Abu Dhabi will allow our fans to once again follow and support their favourite players and teams through our high-quality broadcast coverage of one of the most competitive cricket leagues in the world.”

The PCB is said to have agreed to cover the incremental costs of the PSL’s move to Abu Dhabi, with such operational costs normally paid by the franchises. The 2021 PSL got underway on February 20 with stadiums operating at 20% capacity, meaning that around 7,500 ticketed spectators were allowed access to Karachi’s National Stadium per match day and around 5,500 were permitted at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium.

The PCB later announced that crowds of up to 50% capacity would be permitted in Karachi, but it is expected that games will be played behind closed doors in Abu Dhabi.

The 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) season was suspended with immediate effect earlier this month after a number of positive COVID-19 cases were reported among teams. With India currently battling a significant virus outbreak, plans for the League’s resumption have yet to be disclosed.

Image: Dominic Scaglioni/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size