KARACHI: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has backed the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) current stance over the Asia Cup but has also called for the matter to be dealt with harmony between all parties involved.

The PCB’s interim Management Committee chairman Najam Sethi met the prime minister — who is also the board’s patron — on Wednesday and briefed the premier about the ‘hybrid model’, which the board believes is the solution to the ongoing deadlock between itself and its Indian counterpart over the Asia Cup.

With the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) having refused to send their cricket team to Pakistan — the rightful hosts of the Asia Cup — the model was proposed to the Asian Cricket Council as a middle-way to keep the tournament alive.

The model would see Pakistan host the matches not involving India before the competition moves to a neutral venue.

While the BCCI, led by secretary Jay Shah — who is also the ACC president — has unofficially rejected the model, the ACC is yet to hold it executive council’s meeting, which would make a final decision over the fate of the Asia Cup with just around two more months to go before it starts.

Reportedly, Shah prefers the tournament to be held entirely out of Pakistan, preferably Sri Lanka. If that happens, the PCB may well boycott the tournament.

During his meeting with Sethi, Dawn understands, the prime minister was happy with how the PCB chief has handled the issue. The premier, however, asked Sethi to avoid confrontation with the BCCI but assured his backing if Sethi is forced to take a strong step.

In case the model is rejected by the ACC, the PCB is expected to not only withdraw the national side from the tournament but there is also a chance that it will boycott the World Cup, which is set to be held in India in October-November.

Sethi, though, was told that the government will guide the PCB over the 50-over showpiece “closer to time”, sources told Dawn.

While the BCCI’s stance is rigid, sources said that there have been “encouraging signs” as other boards “have no problems” playing the Asia Cup in Pakistan“.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2023

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