DUBAI: International Cricket Council (ICC) general manager Wasim Khan expects the cricket boards of Pakistan and India to approach amicable “conclusions” to the ongoing deadlock between them over the Asia Cup and the World Cup with the sport’s global governing body’s assistance.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has categorically refused sending its team to Pakistan for the Asia Cup, which is scheduled to be held in the country in September. The PCB, meanwhile, has warned of a “very real possibility” of Pakistan withdrawing from the World Cup, which is to be hosted by India a month later.
Discussions over a “hybrid model” — that would see India playing their Asia Cup matches at a neutral venue — however, are still ongoing after it was proposed by the PCB’s interim Management Committee chairman Najam Sethi.
But, even if the proposal is accepted by the BCCI, the PCB may demand playing their World Cup matches outside India — a situation which has seemed to put organisers ICC in a flux, with the schedule of the One-day International showpiece yet to be released with only five months to go before its opener.
To conduct meetings with the PCB over the issue, ICC chairman and chief executive Greg Barclay and Geoff Allardice are set to arrive in Lahore on Tuesday, a visit Wasim hoped will prove fruitful.
“That’s something that’s obviously ongoing at the moment,” Wasim told a virtual press conference on Monday. “Geoff Allardice, our CEO, and Greg are in Pakistan at the moment discussing a number of areas with the PCB hierarchy.
“But that’s certainly up to the two countries and the hierarchy within the ICC to discuss them and come to some conclusions.”
A final decision over the Asia Cup is expected after an imminent Asian Cricket Council’s (ACC) executive body meeting this week. The ACC is headed by Jay Shah, who is also the BCCI secretary.
According to reports that emerged from India on Sunday night, Shah and the BCCI are still opposed to the “hybrid model” and want the tournament to be entirely shifted from Pakistan to another country, preferably Sri Lanka.
Dates and venues for the World Cup will be announced after the World Test Championship (WTC) final in London from June 7.
CO-EXSISTENCE WITH T20 LEAGUES
The emergence of lucrative T20 leagues has challenged the ICC to maintain the popularity of international cricket in the last few years, but now it seems that the body is observing acceptance rather than trying to resist what now looks like an unstoppable phenomenon in the sport.
After the BCCI became the pioneer of such competitions by launching the Indian Premier League in 2008, top cricket nations in Pakistan, Australia, England have came up with their own versions of franchise T20 leagues — The Hundred in England’s case.
But now after South Africa held the inaugural SA20 last year, even blossoming cricket nations, namely UAE and the United States, have launched T20 leagues, further cramping the cricket calendar.;
Wasim said there was only one way to cope with the rising number of leagues, which have also seen big names like New Zealand pacer Trent Boult and England batter Jason Roy cancel their contracts with their national sides.
“The fact that we’re seeing some highly competitive domestic T20 leagues around the world provides more choice for fans, more choice for players in terms of taking part, which is only going to improve the product particularly around our white-ball tournaments, the ICC World Cups,” said the official.
“Obviously, the way the schedule is structured now and the emergence of these leagues, there has to be a way for us to co-exist. Nothing is going to be removed so we are going to have to co-exist moving forward.”
Wasim, however, was more hopeful about Test cricket, having the Full Members of the ICC on board over retaining the WTC in the next eight-year cycle of the Future Tours Programme.
“The context for red-ball cricket, when there is competition from other formats, competition for the time of players, the World Test Championship is still very dear to countries and players,” he said. “We’ve heard from some of the top stars around the world talking about the importance of Test cricket.
“It’s important we continue to find an opportunity to co-exist, to ensure our schedule moving forward beyond the next cycle, beyond 2027 is something that provides something for everybody, for all the fans. We have the purists who still love watching Test cricket, players who still love playing it, fans who enjoy white ball as well.”
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2023