The possibility of crowds in the Pakistan Super League is not out of the question, with the PCB open to it pending government approval. The PCB wants to have stadiums at 30 percent capacity in both Karachi and Lahore and is waiting for permission from the government before proceeding with its contingency plans. The PCB intends to host up to 10,000 spectators at the Karachi National Stadium (capacity 32,000), and a maximum of 8,000 at the Gaddafi Lahore Stadium (capacity 27,000).
In the latest update from the National Health Center in September, sports were given the green light to resume at the grassroots and recreational level with appropriate safety measures. But the guidelines were designed separately for indoor and outdoor sports. The last available guideline reads: “Spectators should be allowed to participate in sports/games with outdoor pavilions while ensuring a distance of six feet between them.” It prohibited the number of spectators to exceed 50% of the seating capacity. Since cricket is the most popular sport in the country and draws the largest crowds, the PCB will need federal and provincial approval to have crowds at the PSL, and regulations on what is allowed are determined at the government level rather than the PCB.
Welcoming the crowds at the PSL will be the next big step after the PCB conducted the cricket season so far behind closed doors. Professional cricket returned to Pakistan in September after a 24-week hiatus forced by the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2020-21 national season had started with PCBs forming a bio-bubble for equipment in hotels with strict standard operating procedures. It started with the T20 National Cup, played over two matches in Multan and then in Rawalpindi, followed by the first-class tournament trophy Quaid-e-Azam, held entirely in Karachi. The remaining four matches of the fifth edition of the PSL in Karachi were followed by a home series against Zimbabwe.
The T20 National Cup and the home series against Zimbabwe were not open to crowds, and the next two-round series, three T20Is against South Africa will also be played in empty stadiums. PSL is scheduled to start on February 20 with 34 games in total.
Pakistan saw an increase in coronavirus cases during the winter, although cases began to decline after school closings last month. The government has urged people to take the necessary precautions, but enforcement remains low and most public places – shopping malls, wedding halls, and public transportation – are fully open. However, with next week’s reopening and PSL still more than a month away, any decisions made about crowd participation in the league will be subject to change as the situation evolves.