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Group of PSL players and staff to leave for Abu Dhabi via Bahrain

Another hurdle overcome as the PSL strives to get underway next month

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
The PSL has faced multiple logistical challenges in trying to complete the tournament's 2021 edition in a narrowing window  •  PCB/PSL

The PSL has faced multiple logistical challenges in trying to complete the tournament's 2021 edition in a narrowing window  •  PCB/PSL

As many as 11 players and officials who were denied permission to board commercial flights headed to Abu Dhabi via Doha will now be routed through Bahrain to the UAE capital later tonight. An official update from the PCB announced the players and staff had boarded, and all formalities had been taken care of. It sees another hurdle overcome as the PSL strives to get underway next month and complete what remains of the tournament postponed in March this year.
Earlier today, the players and staff, including the Quetta Gladiators captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, were not allowed to board commercial flights going from Lahore and Karachi to Abu Dhabi via Doha early morning on Sunday. This was down to these persons not having the required clearances to board the flights, as per restrictions in place on travellers to the UAE amid the pandemic.
Five persons from this PSL contingent were cleared to fly, while the others had to return to their hotels where they have been in quarantine since May 24. In a late-night development, the PCB announced that 13 players quarantining at their hotels in Lahore have been permitted to return to their homes in Pakistan, with the board deciding to fly them to Abu Dhabi on commercial instead of chartered flights.*
As the PCB prepares to hold the remainder of PSL 2021 in the UAE, a batch of more than 25 individuals from both cities was supposed to travel to the UAE on a chartered plane. But the PCB, in a late decision, instead opted to put them on commercial flights, which nullified the quarantine protocols already in place. ESPNcricinfo could not establish what prompted the sudden change in travel plans.
In all, 202 players, support staff and tournament officials from Pakistan - that is, 57 persons from Karachi and 145 from Lahore - are already in Abu Dhabi for the tournament, flown over on a special chartered flight on May 27. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that there remain multiple individuals, including the franchise support staff, who are yet to get UAE visas though.
Overall, over 270 personnel - both Pakistani and overseas - are in Abu Dhabi and have already started quarantine, a basic requirement before entering the tournament's bio-secure bubble. The quarantine periods vary based on the country from which the persons have travelled: the batches from Pakistan are meant to spend seven days in quarantine from the day of check-in, while those from South Africa and India - the latter as part of the production crew - have to undergo ten days isolation.
The PSL has already faced multiple logistical challenges in trying to complete the 2021 edition in the UAE, after the tournament was suspended mid-way in Pakistan in March after players and officials tested positive for Covid-19 within the bio-bubble. The PCB has had lengthy negotiations with the Abu Dhabi government to stage the tournament in the emirate, and got clearance for the same last week. Over the last ten days, the PCB has even come close to postponing the event further, but has somehow managed to pull most of the pieces together.
Had things gone to plan, the PCB intended to restart the league no later than June 5. But with several pending issues, there is still no certainty over the the schedule of fixtures. With every passing day, the available window continues shrinking - the Pakistan team is set to fly to England on June 22, meaning the PSL needs to wind up before then. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that the remainder of the tournament - as things stand, 20 matches out of 34 remain to be played in the season - might be truncated to fit it within the available window.
*The story was updated to reflect that players who had been in quarantine in Lahore are now returning home

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent