Two weeks ago, the fifth edition of the PSL was suspended due to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic, with two semi-finals and the final still to be played. The fate of the tournament is still uncertain, with viewpoints divided over whether it is to be rescheduled or aborted, with the winner decided on the basis of league-stage standings. The PCB, ESPNcricinfo understands, is having internal discussions on the matter and exploring all options before chalking out a list of workable recommendations.
If the pandemic settles down in few months’ time and the world takes a step towards normalcy, the PCB has an obligation to find a window for the PSL and November is understood to be a slot it is considering. But the board faces a challenge to regather all the stakeholders in one place for three days, including 16 overseas players.
Before suspending the tournament, the PCB had attempted to shorten it by scrapping its four-match playoff stage, and turning it into a two-day affair with a semi-final double-header followed by the final. Apart from the PSL, the final leg of Pakistan’s home series against Bangladesh, scheduled for early April, and the domestic one-day cup also stand indefinitely postponed, and the national team’s upcoming tour of the UK also faces a blurry future.
According to the PSL’s playing conditions, it is understood that the team placed at the top of the league standings can be declared the winner if the tournament doesn’t find a window to hold its knockout matches. Multan Sultans topped the table at the end of the league stage, with 14 points from 10 games, and their bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed believes this should give them the title. “The PSL 5 has to have a proper closure and that can be done by taking into [account] the top team on the points table at the end of the league stage and declaring them winners,” he told PTI. “If the PCB doesn’t close the PSL 5 and tries to organise the remaining four or five matches including the final later this year or before the PSL 6 it will dent the hype and spoil the momentum of the next edition.”
Alamgir Tareen, the owner of the Sultans franchise, has also urged the PCB not to reschedule the PSL and decide on the season as it stood when it was suspended. “We are yet to have a conversation with the PSL management to assess if and when they can find a window to schedule the playoffs,” he said. “However, we do not see the rescheduling of the playoffs to be practical. If the PSL does identify a window for the playoffs in the later part of the year, who knows which players will be able to come and what the composition of the teams will be. Alternatively, if we set apart a week at the beginning of the next PSL and choose to play with newly drafted teams, it will be a part of PSL 6 more than a continuation of PSL 5.”
Karachi Kings, Lahore Qalandars and Peshawar Zalmi were the other three teams in the top four. The Qalandars finished the league stage in third place and qualified for the playoffs for the first time, having finished bottom of the table for four straight seasons.
The Qalandars hoped the remainder of the tournament would be played before the start of the next season, if the situation improves. “The only sense we understand is to regroup and play the tournament whenever it is possible and sign off with a winner,” said Sameen Rana, one of the Qalandars’ owners. “We believe in competing, otherwise there is no point of having playing cricket. The ideas of deciding a winner on the basis of a team on top in the group stage will suck out all the fun. There is a sense of competition and this is what makes cricket more beautiful. If this is a thought process then why we playing cricket, let’s decide a winner on toss in every game we play.”
Rana added: “All we have to do is find a window and we can easily afford to bring 16 players for two days on a weekend and finish the tournament on a high note.”