LAHORE: Only 202 players and officials of the six Pakistan Super League teams and staff of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) could leave for Abu Dhabi through chartered flights from Lahore and Karachi on Thursday to feature in the HBL PSL 6 while 25 players and officials including Quetta Gladiators captain Sarfaraz Ahmed were left behind in their hotel waiting for their visas to arrive.
As many as 145 persons from Lahore and 57 from Karachi left for Abu Dhabi on Thursday at 5:00pm after a delay of four hours. An emergency meeting of the PCB officials with the owners of the six franchises was also summoned in order to reach at a consensus after Abu Dhabi authorities refused to give permission to the chartered flights which were to come from Mumbai and Joheannesburg with some players and officials on Thursday.
The refusal by UAE authorities suddenly raised doubts over the resumption of the PSL. However, soon afterwards the PCB issued a statement, clearing the doubts by stating that the flights for Abu Dhabi from Lahore and Karachi would leave at 5.00pm instead of the scheduled time of 1.00pm.
Besides Sarfaraz, other prominent cricketers, who are still waiting for their visas are Musa Khan, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Imran, Zaid Alam, Imran Khan, Zeeshan Ashraf and Asif Afridi.
There are reports that still the chances for the arrival of Indians and South African’s nationals, including players and broadcasters, are bright as the PCB is trying to get another permission of landing their chartered flights at Abu Dhabi airport after the initial permission for May 26 expired due to delay in issuance of the visas which the PCB was expecting by Tuesday. It may be mentioned that both India and South Africa are included in the red-list due to Covid-19 and the PCB had sought special permission from the Abu Dhabi authorities to allow the flights coming from those countries.
A lot of uncertainty has been prevailing over the remaining 20 matches of PSL 6 since the PCB announced to hold it in Karachi from June 1. After the NCOC did not give any green signal to the PCB to hold the remaining matches in Karachi, the Board shifted the matches to Abu Dhabi in a jiffy. However, the PCB could not announce the schedule of the remaining matches since it was not possible till the confirmation of arrival of all stakeholders.
On Wednesday, the PCB had stated the schedule of the matches will be announced on Thursday, but it has now been deferred again in view of the rapidly unfolding developments.
“It is all to play for as the HBL Pakistan Super League 6 moves to Abu Dhabi with the remaining 20 matches of the season to be staged at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium from the first week of June,” a PCB press release stated. “Defending champions Karachi Kings, 2017 champions Peshawar Zalmi, 2016 and 2018 champions Islamabad United and last year’s runner-up Lahore Qalandars are all locked at six points after an engrossing 14-match Karachi leg (20 February-3 March).
“While the teams have tweaked their foreign players’ rosters for the Abu Dhabi leg due to availability issues, the core of the teams formed by seasoned Pakistan T20 exponents, remains the same.
“Almost all of Pakistan’s leading T20 exponents will be seen in action in Abu Dhabi with their focus on getting their sides through to the playoffs before a shot at the glittering trophy. In the Karachi-leg Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Nawaz, Sharjeel Khan, Shoaib Malik and Sohaib Maqsood made significant contributions for their respective sides. All six again hope to make their presence felt in Abu Dhabi leg too.”
Nasim Shah cleared to fly
Fast bowler Nasim Shah, meanwhile, finally got permission to join the bio-secure bubble at a local hotel after he cleared a fresh Covid-19 test on Thursday. He will now fly for Abu Dhabi with the remaining 25 players and officials after clearing back-to-back Covid-19 test in the bubble in the next two days.
Nasim, who has to represent Quetta Gladiators in the remaining PSL games, has been sidelined from the squad as he had brought with him an old Covid-19 test report conducted on May 18 and was asked by the PCB to the leave the hotel.
Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2021