KARACHI: India on Tuesday sought to deal a body blow to Pakistan cricket when it ruled out sending its cricket team to the neighbouring country for the next year’s Asia Cup.
In response, Pakistan’s cricket authorities are now weighing their options which include walking out of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), currently headed by an Indian, and pulling out of the next year’s 50-over World Cup to be held in India.
It all started when Indian cricket board (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah, also ACC president, told reporters in Mumbai on Tuesday that the Indian team will not travel to Pakistan for the Asia Cup 2023. If that wasn’t enough, Shah also claimed that the Asia Cup would be relocated to a neutral country.
“The Asia Cup 2023 will be held at a neutral venue,” Shah commented. “I am saying this as ACC President. We (India) can’t go there (to Pakistan), they can’t come here. In the past also, Asia Cup has been played at a neutral venue,” he added.
India’s announcement that it won’t send its team to Pakistan was unsurprising. After all, India hasn’t toured Pakistan since 2008 when it came to feature in the Asia Cup. What’s surprising is the timing of Shah’s statement. It comes at a time when the Asia Cup is still about a year away.
It is understood that top Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials are fuming over Shah’s mistimed announcement. When contacted, a PCB official said that the Board will soon issue its official statement on the issue. “We are not making any official comments today but we will do that soon,” he said.
Privately, however, well-placed sources in the Board were willing to share details of the options it’s currently weighing. Angered by Shah’s irresponsible statement as ACC president, PCB is considering the option of pulling out of the continental body which it helped found back in the eighties.
“What’s the point of being part of an organisation which cannot safeguard the interests of its members,” a source told ‘The News’. “How can one man decide the fate of the Asia Cup? And if he can, then there is no point being part of the ACC,” he added.
The PCB will be sending a letter to ACC demanding an explanation of Shah’s comments about the Asia Cup. “Pakistan will quit ACC if our interests are not safeguarded,” the source said. PCB is also considering the option of pulling out of World Cup 2023 to be held in India.
“There is an ICC Board meeting in Melbourne next month. PCB will raise this issue very strongly. PCB will make it clear to the ICC that it will need government clearance before confirming Pakistan team’s visit to India for the World Cup,” the source said.
As a tit-for-tat measure, it is understood that Pakistan’s government will not give clearance to its team to travel to India for the World Cup. This will put the International Cricket Council (ICC) in a tough spot.
According to sources, PCB’s top brass is convinced that BCCI is attempting to damage Pakistan cricket and that they will not take it lying down. “The Board is prepared to take all possible measures to shield the reputation and interest of Pakistan cricket. PCB will make sure that the Asia Cup is held in Pakistan as decided by the ACC Board. If this doesn’t happen, then PCB will use all available options,” the source added.
PCB’s top officials are expected to be busy over the next few days. According to the source, they would be reaching out to several other cricket-playing nations, seeking their moral support against a common foe, India. According to the source, top PCB officials are convinced that the BCCI, currently controlled by politicians, is playing a very negative role.