Infectious disease specialists will try to get to the bottom of why a spate of Covid-19 cases broke out in the PSL
The investigation into the doomed handling of bio-secure procedures at the postponed Pakistan Super League will be headed by infectious disease experts Dr Syed Faisal Mahmood and Dr Salma Mohammad Abbas. The two-person fact-finding committee will investigate the protocols that had been in place for the league, look into what went wrong and submit their findings to PCB chairman Ehsan Mani by the end of this month.
The day PCB CEO Wasim Khan announced the league had been indefinitely postponed, he promised an independent investigation into what went wrong when an outbreak within the bubble began to spread, with more cases turning up with each round of testing. There have been well-documented instances of Standard Operating Procedures(SOP) not being adhered to, and the experts are expected to assess if those SOPs were fit for purpose in the first place.
Dr Syed Faisal Mahmood is an Associate Professor in the Section of Infectious Diseases, at the Aga Khan University, while Dr Salma Muhammad Abbas is an infectious diseases consultant with the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Lahore.
“The PCB takes the health and safety of its players, player support personnel and match officials seriously,” Mani said. “We have demonstrated our duty of care in the international series against Zimbabwe and South Africa, as well as during the nine domestic events in which we successfully staged 220 matches. This included the 34-match National T20 Cup in Multan and Rawalpindi as well as the first and second elevens Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and the Pakistan Cup in Karachi.”
The PCB has been keen to point out, in the wake of the PSL suspension fiasco, that the home season had been, up until that point, conducted with relatively few incidents. Towards the end of last year, the board highlighted that it had conducted nearly 3000 tests across the domestic season. But the fragility of the measures alongside it – such as bio-secure bubbles and protocols – was evident in, for example, the number of players turning up with positive Covid-19 tests in New Zealand; more relevantly, it was evident in the number of cases that emerged from the playoffs of the PSL’s fifth season, played last November.
Either way, what has happened over the past week or so at the PSL has undone any progress Pakistan had made in this regard, and Mani said he wanted the experts to provide an “honest, constructive and objective review. The independent panel will speak with all the relevant stakeholders, including the event and hotel staff, medical and compliance officers, team players and managements, so that we can get a better understanding how the cases occurred. The independent panel will make such recommendations as it considers appropriate.”
Before the investigation has even begun, the debacle looks set to have claimed one scalp – the board’s doctor and man in charge of setting protocols at the league, Dr Sohail Saleem. But it’s unlikely he will be the last, especially as more damaging facts continue to emerge in the fallout. The report the experts are expected to submit is set to shed further light on precisely what went wrong.
Since Fawad Ahmed tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday, organisers scrambled to try and get a potential outbreak under control, but it was already too late. Further cases were discovered at several different franchises, meaning the league wasn’t just dealing with one outbreak, but any number of them. On Thursday morning, when further cases at various franchises turned up, PSL 2021 was officially suspended.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000