KARACHI: In an attempt to quash concerns by the Bangladesh and Sri Lankan cricket authorities over the proposed ‘hybrid model’ for this year’s Asia Cup, the Pakistan Cricket Board has put forward a revised version of it.
The Bangladesh Cricket Board and Sri Lanka Cricket had reportedly objected over travelling to and from host country Pakistan to the United Arab Emirates — the neutral venue proposed in the original “hybrid model” — and also had concerns over the hot weather in the Middle East during September, when the Asia Cup is scheduled to be held.
The ‘hybrid model’ was originally proposed by the PCB during an Asian Cricket Council meeting in Bahrain last month to ensure at least a part of the tournament is held in Pakistan after India had categorically rejected travelling across the border.
The proposal, which was presented by the PCB three days ago, if accepted by the ACC members, will see Pakistan host only four matches of the initial group stage before the remaining matches, including the final — regardless of India being involved — are held at a neutral venue.
A possibility of the tournament being held in Sri Lanka is also on the cards with the SLC having offered to organise it while Pakistan remain the official hosts.
“I’m quite surprised that this idea is being floated unofficially by Sri Lanka and by Bangladesh,” the PCB’s interim committee chairman Najam Sethi told BBC on Thursday.
“The only objection Bangladesh raised was that it would be too hot in September in the UAE.
“The other objection was over logistics; ‘how are we going to go to and fro from Pakistan and the neutral venue.’ The proposal that I gave to them, three days ago, takes care of all the logistical problems.
“We play four matches in Pakistan, the teams come straight to Pakistan and we play four matches there and then everybody moves to the neutral venue, wherever that is, and we play the rest of the matches there.
“And I’ve made the concession that in the event Pakistan gets into the final, we will play the final in the neutral venue, even if it’s against India or against anybody else.”
If the “hybrid model” is not entertained, Sethi hinted, Pakistan would not play the Asia Cup, with the 74-year-old adding that it would mean the tournament losing its commercial value.
“In the last ACC meeting, which was about a month ago, we all agreed to two things; we agreed that it was imperative that Pakistan play the Asia cup, without Pakistan they can’t play the Asia Cup,” said Sethi.
“Nearly 80 per cent of the revenues of the Asia Cup are from the India-Pakistan matches, of which — the way the schedule is structured — we play at least two of those possibly three if both of us get into the finals.”
Although the revised ‘hybrid model’ would see Pakistan compromise on the number of matches at their home soil, hosting the Asia Cup is key for the PCB’s long-term goals.
According to Dawn’s understanding, the board wants to prove its reliability as well as that of the country as an able host of a top international cricket tournament with one eye on the ICC Champions Trophy, which Pakistan are scheduled to host in 2025
For the PCB and the Pakistan government, it is also about giving out the message that Pakistan is a safe and secure place for sports and cricket in particular.
The ‘hybrid model’ coming into play would also mean that Pakistan would expect it to be adopted during the World Cup as well with the 50-over showpiece set to be held in India in October-November.
Reiterating PCB’s stance in interviews published on Indian media outlets on Thursday, Sethi said Pakistan would play their World Cup matches at a neutral venue as well. He was of the view that the model was the way to go considering the tense political relations between India and Pakistan, which might come in the way again ahead of the 2025 Champions Trophy.
“If India now wants to have a neutral venue and accepts the hybrid model, then we’ll use the same hybrid model in the World Cup,” he said. “Pakistan can play its World Cup matches in Dhaka or any other venue to which India agrees, and similarly in the Champions Trophy.
“So all the other countries can come and play in Pakistan but India can play at a neutral venue. So this is a model that goes forward and resolves this political logjam.”
Few reports in the Indian media on Wednesday had claimed that the Pakistan-India World Cup match was to be held in Ahmedabad — where riots against Muslims are common and anti-Pakistan sentiment prevails.
Sethi said he felt such reports were coming out to discourage Pakistan from participating in the World Cup.
“When I heard that the Pakistan match was to be in Ahmedabad, I smiled and said to myself: ‘this is one way to make sure we don’t come to India’. I mean if you’d said Chennai or Kolkata, it might have made sense,” he said.
Meanwhile, according to a report by the Press Trust of India news agency on Wednesday, the ICC has got no written assurance from the PCB over its Pakistan’s participation in the World Cup even as impasse regarding the Asia Cup continues.
“India coming to Pakistan and Pakistan going to India doesn’t depend either on BCCI or PCB,” an ICC board member privy to developments told PTI. “So, PCB can’t give any assurance to ICC about its participation in the global event.
“It is the Pakistan government that will give approval just like in case of BCCI, it can only come to PCB subject to government clearance.”
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2023
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