UAE in pole position to host rest of Pakistan Super League, T20 World Cup

Quetta Gladiators' Ben Cutting (front R) and Abdul Nasir (front L) walk back the pavilion after winning the Pakistan Super League (PSL) Twenty20 cricket match between Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United at The National Cricket Stadium in Karachi on February 20, 2020.  / AFP / Asif HASSAN
The Pakistan Super League (PSL), which was hosted in full in the UAE for the first three seasons, looks set for a comeback this year. Image Credit: AFP

Kolkata: The UAE could be a hub of some top drawer cricketing action later this year – both international and franchise leagues – if all goes according to plan. While it is the official stand-by candidate to host the T20 World Cup in October and November unless the COVID-19 situation shows a dramatic improvement in India, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are in advanced stages of talks with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to host the remaining 20 matches of Pakistan Super League at the desert venue.

Like the Indian Premier League (IPL) earlier this month, the PSL was cancelled under similar circumstances on March 3 after players from a number of franchises started testing positive for coronavirus. There is now a strong likelihood of the rest of the matches being held in Dubai in June as the pandemic continues to surge in Pakistan, but a number of nitty gritties are yet to solved before T20 league can be moved to the UAE – where it held the first three editions.

Confirming the plans, a senior PCB official told Gulf News: ‘‘We are in discussions with the Emirates Cricket Board about the possibilities of playing the remaining 20 PSL 2021 matches in the UAE. However, due to Eid holidays in the UAE, we are unlikely to come to a final decision until next week.’’

A number of franchises contacted on the issue said while they would prefer a single venue of Dubai hosting the remaining matches, there are still critical issues like the available window for international players as well as the embargo on international travel from various countries. ‘‘The situation is still fluid as PCB are exploring all the options. However, if the backlog of matches cannot be completed in June, then staging the remaining part of this year’s edition may be difficult,’’ remarked one of the franchise officials.

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There are lots of organisational hazards like 14-day quarantine. It can’t happen in India. This quarantine is tough to handle. Too early to say how we can find a slot to complete the IPL

– Sourav Ganguly, BCCI President

Incidentally, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) are also desperately looking for a window where they can host the remaining matches of IPL 2021 – which met with the same fate as PSL in early May when a number of players, officials of different franchises were struck by the virus. The BCCI president, Sourav Ganguly, has gone on record that hosting the rest of IPL in India will not be possible due to the ‘‘organisational hazards.’’

‘‘There are lots of organisational hazards like 14-day quarantine. It can’t happen in India. This quarantine is tough to handle. Too early to say how we can find a slot to complete the IPL,” the former India skipper said in a recent interview. While September was being initially touted as a window to host the remaining IPL games in the UAE as a precursor to the World T20 in the UAE, it now seems a non-starter due to the absence of a clear window and readiness of the venues – should the World Cup be eventually played in the associate country.

The IPL franchises, who are playing their cards close to their chests on the issue, however voted for the UAE as their preferred destination. ‘’Of course, the UAE is a great back-up to take the IPL there but it’s still early days,’’ remarked Ness Wadia co-owner of Punjab Kings.