Nine foreign cricketers, including the English trio of Jason Roy, Alex Hales and James Vince, have decided to leave the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and return home on Friday owing to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), however, said the PSL will continue as scheduled despite the withdrawal of the overseas players.
“What is paramount is we are giving options to all the players and support personnel to withdraw from the league if they want too as ensuring they feel comfortable remains top priority of the PCB,” PCB CEO Wasim Khan said.
England players Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Tymal Mills, Liam Dawson, Liam Livingstone, Lewis Gregory, James Vince, West Indian Carlos Braithwaite, South African Rilee Roussouw and James Foster (Coach) will be returning home from the PSL, the Board said.
Dawson, Braithwaite, Roussouw, Vince and Gregory represented the squads of Peshawar Zalmi and Multan Sultan, who will face off at the national Stadium here on Friday.
In a statement, the PCB said it had given the option to all foreign players and support staff to withdraw from the tournament if they wanted to and franchises can replace them with local players and officials.
The board said it was monitoring the situation closely with the concerned agencies and so far no player or official has tested positive for the virus in the league.
“The remaining matches in Karachi will be held as per earlier decision without crowds and only accredited personnel would be allowed inside the stadium,” the board said.
Khan said team owners were taken into confidence before allowing foreign players and support staff to go home due to the virus threat.
“As of now, it is important to emphasise and clarify that the main concern of many of the 10 players and coach (who are returning home) revolves around avoiding a potential situation where they might become stranded due to flight cancellations or border closures in their own countries.
“We will continue to assess and review the situation. And will not hesitate to make what we believe are the right decisions for everyone involved,” Khan added.
The PCB on Thursday took the decision to bar spectators from the remaining PSL matches that are due to be played at the National Stadium in Karachi.
The decision came as Karachi and Lahore were playing their match at the NSK on Thursday night in front of a nearly full house.
The Sindh government on Friday confirmed another positive case of the coronavirus in Karachi.
The coronavirus outbreak, declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday, has led to nearly 5000 deaths globally.