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PSL playoffs postponed after overseas player develops coronavirus symptoms

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The PSL, which had tweaked its original schedule to shorten it by four days with an eye on the worsening COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) situation, has been “suspended” following the revelation that an overseas cricketer, who has now left Pakistan, had shown symptoms of the virus.

“One overseas player has been potentially suspected (of having contracted COVID-19). However, we cannot reveal the identity of that player. But it’s true that there is one suspected case and the player has left Pakistan already,” Wasim Khan, the PCB chief executive, told mediapersons in Lahore.

According to a tweet by the official PSL handle, the semi-final games [Multan Sultans v Peshawar Zalmi and Karachi Kings v Lahore Qalandars], which were scheduled to be played on Tuesday, and the final, slotted for Wednesday, would be rescheduled.

“We took the responsibility and were engaged with the government all the time and taking their minute-by-minute advice,” Khan said. “We were continuing with their consent. We first made our decision to play in empty stadiums, gave players option to leave, reduced the number of days as well and all decisions we had taken were for the greater good.

“But this new development came after a player who left Pakistan told us that (he has) symptoms and this (decision to suspend PSL) isn’t in light of being panicked, but it’s a sensible response and we made our decision after thorough deliberation. But before this there was no suspected case at all, which is why the decision wasn’t made before.”

Representatives of the management teams of the various franchises accepted the decision, saying it was the right thing to do in the circumstances.

Salman Iqbal, the owner of Karachi Kings, 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.”

We also caught up with Sameen Rana, owner of Lahore Qalandars, 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 important as the PSL is for all of us, it was clear that the right thing to do at this time was to call off the remaining games,” Alamgir Tareen of Multan Sultans told ESPNcricinfo. “Where there are concerns about health there can be no other priority.”

Meanwhile, it has also emerged that all the players and other officials of the four teams to have qualified for the semi-finals, as well as broadcast employees and others involved with the games, are being tested.

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, cancelling 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 activity 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 mediapersons 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.

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