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PSL gets green light from Abu Dhabi authorities for June resumption

The PCB has received all pending approvals and exemptions from the emirate to host the tournament there

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Fourteen out of the scheduled 34 matches in PSL 2021 were completed in February-March, in Pakistan  •  PSL

Fourteen out of the scheduled 34 matches in PSL 2021 were completed in February-March, in Pakistan  •  PSL

The remainder of PSL 2021 has finally been given the go-ahead to be played out in Abu Dhabi in June, a significant overnight turnaround after prospects for the future of the sixth season had begun to look gloomy. On Wednesday the PCB had deferred a decision on the fate of the season by 24 hours after they couldn't secure some critical exemptions from the Abu Dhabi government. Franchises and officials had been told to delay departure plans from Pakistan and given that the league was due to restart on June 1, a postponement seemed a distinct possibility.
But less than 24 hours were ultimately needed and the PCB announced on Thursday they had secured the approvals and exemptions they were seeking. The PSL management will now talk to the six franchises to rework logistics and firm up departure plans, with the start date of the tournament almost certainly rejigged.
The exemptions sought were, the PCB believed, critical to the staging of the event, and included provisions for players, officials and broadcast and production staff flying in from India and South Africa. Travel restrictions are currently in place in the UAE for visitors from those two countries because of the Covid-19 pandemic but agreements have now been reached between the league and UAE authorities. Those flying in from the two countries will have to quarantine for 10 days in a separate hotel to where the rest of the teams are staying. Everyone from India and South Africa will arrive by chartered flight.
The six franchises and league officials will have to go through seven days of the quarantine in the UAE, with teams put up in three different hotels - two teams in each hotel.
Players from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will go to Pakistan, and travel onto the UAE by chartered flights - one each from Lahore and Karachi. Because of the fluid nature of the pandemic in different parts of the world, there are actually travel restrictions to the UAE from several countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which is why chartered flights will be used.
"We are delighted with this development as the remaining hurdles in the staging of the remaining HBL PSL 6 matches in Abu Dhabi have been overcome and all systems are now good to go," Wasim Khan, the PCB chief executive, said in a statement. "We are grateful to the UAE government, National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, Emirates Cricket Board and Abu Dhabi Sports Council for their support and patronage in ensuring all final obstacles were removed, which has firmly put us in a position to complete our marquee event.
"The PCB, in consultation with the team owners, will now work at pace to finalise all event-related arrangements, details of which will be shared in due course."
No crowds are expected to be allowed at the stadium for the games, even though the UAE has been allowing limited numbers back for sports events.
In a further indication of the keenness to ensure the season goes ahead, the PCB has agreed to bear the incremental costs of the league being shifted to Abu Dhabi. Generally, operational costs, including broadcasting, production and logistics, are shouldered by the franchises, with the PCB responsible for stadium rents and match officials' fees. But in an acknowledgment of concerns that a shift to the UAE will mean higher costs, the PCB has agreed to cover the extra outlay.
The development is a significant win for the PCB and boon for the league. The sixth season had begun in Karachi in February but had to be cut short, after a virus outbreak in the bio-bubble. Fourteen games out of a scheduled 34 had been played.
Plans were made to resume the league in Karachi in June but worries about an impending surge in Covid-19 cases in the city forced the PCB and franchises to look at offshore options. The UAE was always a frontrunner, given it was Pakistan's home for international cricket for so long and the birthplace of the PSL.
This was the second season in a row the league had been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, though in 2020 the board were able to rearrange the outstanding final games in November.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent