MANAMA: The Asian Cricket Council on Saturday said that a final decision on the venue for the Asia Cup ODI tournament will be taken in March although reports emanating from India suggested that it would be shifted from Pakistan.

The Press Trust of India news agency and other sports outlets, citing senior BCCI officials, reported that an alternate venue would be decided after Board of Cricket Control in India secretary Jay Shah and the chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board’s interim management committee Najam Sethi had their first formal meeting in Bahrain on Saturday.

The Asia Cup was initially allotted to Pakistan and was scheduled in September this year, but Shah, who is also the ACC chairman, announced last October that India will not travel to Pakistan.

Then Shah, who is also the chief of ACC, announced that the tournament will be moved out of Pakistan to a neutral venue, which incensed then PCB chairman Ramiz Raja, who threatened to not send the Pakistan team to the ODI World Cup 2023 which is to be hosted in India.

ACC says final decision to be taken in March

He wrote a stern letter to ACC as well asking for answers on this unilateral announcement.

It is understood that the United Arab Emirates with three venues — Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah — are favourites to host the tournament but the decision has been withheld for the time being.

A news release by the ACC said it held “constructive dialogue” over the Asia Cup.

“The ACC had a constructive dialogue on the upcoming Asia Cup 2023,” it said. “The Board agreed to continue discussions on operations, timelines and any other specifics with a view to ensure the success of the tournament. An update on the matter would be taken on the next ACC Executive Board Meeting to be held in March 2023.”

All heads of ACC member nations attended the emergent meeting, which was called at the behest of PCB chairman Sethi after ACC under the chairmanship of Shah released the continental body’s itinerary, where Pakistan wasn’t named the host.

“The ACC affiliates met today, and there were a lot of constructive discussions. But the shift of venue has been postponed till March. But be rest assured that with India not going to Pakistan, the tournament will have to be shifted. A tournament without Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill will have the sponsors back out,” a senior BCCI official privy to the development was quoted as saying by PTI.

One ACC insider said Sethi has just taken over PCB, and if he would have ceded ground on the hosting rights in the first meeting itself, then it would have led to a bad impression at home.

The InsideSport website quoted a senior BCCI official in the knowhow of the meeting as suggesting an “official announcement will be made on Sunday”.

“The ACC has understood the situation and the Asia Cup won’t be held in Pakistan. UAE and SriLanka are two alternatives. But ACC will take a call on that later,” said the official, adding that it would be Pakistan’s choice if it decides to boycott World Cup in India.

“Whether Pakistan will visit India or not for World Cup, is their choice and ICC’s. BCCI and India welcome all the participating nations. As for hosting rights, Pakistan will still get to host it if it happens in the UAE. But a decision on that is still under discussion.”

Pakistan is currently going through an economic crisis and organising a high-profile tournament like Asia Cup, even if ACC pays a grant could burn a hole in PCB coffers, the PTI reported, adding that there is every possibility that all the member nations will also get to earn apart from the broadcast revenues if the tournament is held in the UAE.

In another decision, the ACC has decided to increase the annual budget allocated for Afghanistan Cricket Association to 15 per cent from six.

The ACC has assured that it will help the Afghanistan board in all possible ways so that women’s cricket can be revived in the country. Women are banned from playing sports under Taliban rule.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2023

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