Asia Cup woes

Published May 14, 2023

IT’S a last ditch effort by the Pakistan Cricket Board to keep in the country a few matches of the Asia Cup that it’s due to host. Forced into a corner, with its Bangladesh and Sri Lankan counterparts raising concerns over the proposed ‘hybrid model’ that would see India playing its matches in neutral UAE, the interim committee chairman of the PCB Najam Sethi has ceded more ground. He has offered that the final be played on neutral soil. Mr Sethi was in the UAE this week for talks with the Asian Cricket Council. Last year, the Council chief, Jay Shah, riled up Pakistan by saying that the Asia Cup would have to move out of Pakistan as the Indian team was unlikely to get clearance from its government. Since Mr Sethi took charge, the board has kept in view that Pakistan would have to travel to India for the World Cup later this year and suggested a ‘hybrid model’. The PCB stressed it would adopt a reciprocal approach towards India, with Mr Sethi stating that Pakistan could play its World Cup matches in Bangladesh or at a venue acceptable to India.

The ‘hybrid model’ seemed a workable solution until the Bangladesh Cricket Board and Sri Lanka Cricket said they were unwilling to shuttle between Pakistan and the UAE. For Pakistan, hosting the Asia Cup is crucial as it is also due to hold the Champions Trophy in 2025. Therefore, it has now proposed that four initial matches be held in Pakistan. The teams can then travel to the UAE to conclude the tournament. It remains to be seen what happens next. It’s clear that the Board of Cricket Control in India is keen to see the event being shifted out of Pakistan and is exerting pressure on others to side with it. The PCB has already made many concessions. The board must now stand by its final offer.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2023

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