Pakistan suspends flagship cricket tournament after COVID cases

Pakistan Super League suspended after seven players test positive for the coronavirus, the country’s cricket board says.

Sherfane Rutherford of Peshawar Zalmi plays a shot during the Pakistan Super League T20 cricket match between Peshawar Zalmi and Karachi Kings in Karachi [Shahzeb Akber/EPA]

Pakistan has suspended its flagship Twenty20 (T20) cricket tournament that started last month after seven team personnel tested positive for COVID-19, the cricket board said.

Teams competing in the country’s highest profile sporting event, in which international players also participate, were all present in the southern city of Karachi, where matches were being played.

“The health and wellbeing of all participants is paramount,” a cricket board statement said on Thursday.

The decision to suspend the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) 6 with immediate effect was made following a meeting with the team owners, it said.

The decision was made after seven cases were reported in the competition, which started on February 20. Officials did not immediately give a resumption date.

A Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official told Reuters news agency that three international players were among the seven who tested positive.

The seven players included Australian spinner Fawad Ahmed, England’s Tom Banton and Mohammad Faizan, who represents Lahore.

Australian all-rounder Daniel Christian withdrew from the competition over fears of catching the virus and planned to fly out on Thursday.

Quetta Gladiators’ Mohammad Hasnain, second from left, celebrates after taking the wicket of Multan Sultans’ Carlos Brathwaite, second from right, during a PSL match in Karachi [Asif Hassan/AFP]

The coronavirus has proved yet another hurdle for the PSL, which is now in its sixth edition but was held entirely in Pakistan for just the first time last year.

Previous editions were hosted wholly or partially by the United Arab Emirates over security fears following the deadly 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore.

Last year, three playoffs and the final were cancelled after England’s Alex Hales showed symptoms of COVID-19. The games were rescheduled to November and held behind closed doors, when Karachi Kings won the title.

Authorities last week allowed the PSL tournament to increase crowd sizes from 20 percent to 50 percent stadium capacity.

Pakistan has so far recorded 585,435 cases of COVID-19 and more than 13,000 deaths. The last two days have seen at least 130 deaths, according to government data.

The country imposed a lockdown only for a few weeks after the first COVID-19 case was detected in March last year, and has gradually lifted the few restrictions it had in place since then.

Source: News Agencies