Islamabad (AFP) – Pakistan’s Twenty20 cricket league was suspended Tuesday after English batsman Alex Hales developed suspected coronavirus symptoms before the start of the semi-finals.
The Pakistan Super League (PSL) announced last week that the playoffs would be truncated with this week’s semi-finals and final in Lahore to be played with no spectators to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The final had already been brought forward from Sunday to Wednesday.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief executive Wasim Khan said officials were forced to reconsider after a foreign player they wouldn’t identify showed coronavirus symptoms.
Hours later, however, Hales confirmed on Twitter that he was the player in question, saying he first started developing flu-like symptoms on Sunday after returning to Britain.
“In the light of the speculation and rumour that is currently circulating within the cricket world and on social media, I felt I needed to give a full explanation of my situation,” Hales said.
“Like many other overseas players, I reluctantly left the Pakistan Super League early because, with COVID-19 reaching global pandemic status, I felt it was more important to be with my family rather than face a period of lockdown thousands of miles from home.
“I returned to the UK in the early hours of Saturday morning feeling perfectly fit and healthy and with absolutely no symptoms of the virus.
“However, I awoke early on Sunday morning having developed a fever and followed the government’s advice of self-isolation, a process I am obviously still following having developed a dry and persistent cough.
“At this stage, it has not been possible to be tested although I am hopeful that might be the case later today so that I can get absolute confirmation of my current health status.”
Hales was one of the top international players in the PSL, playing for the Karachi Kings as a batsman.
The lofty 31-year-old has played 11 Tests, 70 one-dayers and 60 Twenty20 matches for England since making his international debut in 2011.
Other overseas players — including from England, Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies — have been leaving the country en masse in recent days as cases of coronavirus rise.
– Postponed –
The PCB’s Khan said officials were in the process of carrying out “immediate tests of all those who were involved with the (PSL)”.
“The PCB hopes and prays that normalcy returns quickly to our society so that everyone can return to a healthy and routine lifestyle and we can bring back cricket to the fans”, Khan added.
The announcement comes a day after Pakistan said it had also postponed Bangladesh’s upcoming tour because of the virus.
Pakistan has recorded at least 187 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, but no deaths so far.
However, officials have tested only about 1,500 potential cases in the country of 215 million people, where healthcare is frequently inadequate.
The month-long PSL began in February, with games held solely in the cricket-mad country for the first time in its five-year history.
Previous editions were held wholly or partially in the United Arab Emirates over security fears.
A deadly 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus halted international cricket tours to Pakistan, but visits are gradually resuming following an improvement in security.