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EDITORIAL: It is disappointing for fans, players and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) alike that Pakistan Super League (PSL) 6 has had to be immediately and indefinitely postponed because as many as seven cases of coronavirus emerged among players and officials in less than a week of competitive and entertaining cricket. The Board was no doubt pretty confident that the SOPs it had employed in the two Test series preceding PSL-6 were effective, and counted on the bio-secure bubble to keep all participants safe, but clearly too many people violated too many protocols and the result is clear for everybody to see. Managing the movement of one squad for a particular overseas series is one thing but hosting players from a number of countries, to play matches in more than one city, and also ensuring that all safety protocols are followed all the time by all the people is quite another.

PCB was right to pull the plug on the whole thing instead of taking a five-day breather to judge the situation as it evolved, “to make sense of what was going on and see whether we could move forward”, because the virus had already spread to too many people to hope to contain it effectively for the rest of the series. But its chief executive, Wasim Khan, was wrong to rule out discussion on why the bio-secure bubble could not be maintained to avoid a “blame game”, because unless this issue is treated very seriously it will not be possible to learn the right lessons from it. It must, if anything, be thoroughly investigated just why the main strategy to keep the virus in check failed to deliver any results worth speaking of and players started contracting the virus as early as the eve of the tournament. Even before any formal investigation is considered it can be safely said that the mechanism devised to monitor compliance with SOPs must have been very weak and faulty.

The day the postponement was announced was indeed a “very challenging day” for PCB, as Wasim Khan very rightly put it. The Board’s failure to carry out the complete tournament has hurt its own reputation, disappointed cricket fans and left the franchises to pick up the pieces. It will now, as the chief executive admitted, be very difficult to win back the confidence of all the players, officials as well as the game’s many fans. That makes it all the more necessary for PCB to initiate an urgent inquiry into the failure of the bio-secure bubble model. Players and officials who broke the rules caused this problem no doubt but PCB made it worse because of its failure to take timely action and ensure that no further breaches were allowed once the first few were reported and their effects known.

To put things right, however, will require the right kind of blame game to take place; one that identifies and isolates why and where the laws were violated and then places blame on whoever was responsible so appropriate action can be taken. PCB will not win many points, nor learn how to do this any better next time, by trying to brush this breakdown under the carpet. It must acknowledge that it was in fact inefficiency of the highest order on its part, as well as pretty poor management of a very important tournament at a very sensitive time, that caused PSL-6 to be abandoned. If it turns out that this outcome could have been avoided despite the virus, simply by following safety procedures that were put in place, and it was indeed simply administrative oversight that caused this failure, then somebody should be made to pay for it.

Therefore, the only way to really get to the bottom of the problem, while avoiding the wrong kind of blame game, is to investigate it in a responsible and professional manner. Hopefully, PCB will do the right thing so its word can be trusted more readily next time and people can finally get their money’s worth instead of having to wait for ticket refunds after finding out one fine day that half of the scheduled tournament is now off and might never take place.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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