Pakistan T20 league to carry on despite foreign exodus over virus

Alex Hales is one of the players to have left.
Alex Hales is one of the players to have left.

Pakistan’s Twenty20 league will continue despite closed stadiums and an exodus of foreign players who are heading home over the coronavirus crisis, cricketing authorities in the country said Friday.

On Thursday the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said upcoming matches would be played in an empty stadium in Karachi, and offered teams and individual players the option to withdraw from the league.

Many have done so, including Alex Hales (England) of the Karachi Kings; Rilee Rossouw (South Africa) and James Vince (England) from the Multan Sultans; and Peshawar Zalmi’s Tom Banton, Liam Dawson, coach James Foster, Lewis Gregory and Liam Livingstone (all from England).

In addition, Peshawar Zalmi’s Carlos Brathwaite (West Indies) and the Quetta Gladiators’ Jason Roy and Tymal Mills (both from England) will also leave.

“All players and support personnel have been given the option to withdraw from the PSL 2020 should they wish to do so,” the PCB said in a statement, adding that no player had to date tested positive for coronavirus.

The PCB also shortened the league, replacing play-offs with two semi-finals (both in Lahore on March 17) and the final on March 18, instead of March 22, also in Lahore.

Pakistan are due to host Bangladesh for a one-day international (April 1) and a Test (April 5-9) — both in Karachi. The PCB has not yet decided the fate of those matches.

Pakistan has recorded 21 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus — including several in Karachi — but no deaths, according to Mumtaz Ali Khan from the National Institute of Health.

However, there are fears that officials have yet to test large swathes of the population in earnest due to a lack of resources and decades of underinvestment in the country’s health sector.

This year’s PSL tournament is the first in the league’s five-year history to be played in its entirety on home soil.

Previous seasons saw a portion of matches held in the United Arab Emirates over security fears.