The intransigence of the influential Indian cricket board (BCCI) threatens the Asia Cup which Pakistan is supposed to host later this year
Cricket is by far the most popular sport in the sub-continent. No other form of entertainment creates as much excitement and enthusiasm in this part of the world as cricket does.
People around the world have been waiting for the high-voltage game between Pakistan and India in the 16th Asia Cup 2023, officially scheduled in September this year in Pakistan.
The five full members of the Asian Cricket Council - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - will take part in the tournament.
In October 2021 the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) announced that Sri Lanka would host the tournament in 2022 and Pakistan would host the 2023 edition.
On July 21, 2022, the Sri Lanka Cricket Board informed the ACC that they would not be able to host the tournament due to the economic and political crisis in the country.
On July 27, 2022, the ACC confirmed that the tournament would be played in the UAE but Sri Lanka would remain the tournament’s hosts. Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in the final by 23 runs.
The upcoming Asia Cup will be part of the preparation of the 2023 Cricket World Cup that will be played from 5th October to 19th November, 2023 in India.
As per the format for the Asia Cup, the top two teams from each group advance to the Super 4s and the top two teams then contest the final. The possibility of India and Pakistan playing three times remains.
India, citing safety concerns, not only ruled out travelling to Pakistan for the Asia Cup in September but also has been forcing the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) to shift Asia Cup outside Pakistan. They are convincing ACC members not to play in the event in Pakistan.
Jay Shah, secretary, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), has refused to send his team to Pakistan and said that the event should be organised at a neutral venue.
India wants all the matches at a neutral venue. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have also come out against playing in the UAE, citing hot weather and logistics issues. Temperature in September in the UAE usually hovers around 40-degree centigrade.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has offered to let them play their matches in the United Arab Emirates in what has been dubbed a “hybrid model”.
“Hybrid model is a compromise but we are ready for it. We have offered to host the Asia Cup in two phases, four matches of the group stage will be played in Pakistan. After that, we all will go to a neutral venue to play the rest of the matches including the final,” Najam Sethi, the PCB chief, offered to the BCCI.
The proposed hybrid model, if accepted, would be applied to the World Cup 2023 in India and Champions Trophy 2025 in Pakistan.
There was speculation in Indian media that the Asian Cricket Council may look to move the entire tournament out of Pakistan.
But Sethi said that was “not acceptable” and reaffirmed that Pakistan may boycott the World Cup if that happened.
The BCCI decision is surprising. The Indian bridge team has been to Pakistan, the Indian kabaddi team has been to Pakistan, the Indian baseball team has been to Pakistan, why can’t the Indian cricket team come to Pakistan?
Giving a clear message to the BCCI on the Asia Cup matter, Najam Sethi said Pakistan’s government will not allow the team to play World Cup in India because their government stopped the BCCI from touring Pakistan.
“We also have security concerns for our team in India, so let Pakistan play its matches in Dhaka or Mirpur, or UAE or in Sri Lanka. There is a “very real possibility” that Pakistan will boycott this year’s World Cup in India if they lose hosting rights to the Asia Cup,” Sethi warned.
Pakistan is a top cricketing nation which should not be ignored. The India-Pakistan game is the biggest game in town. It’s bigger than Australia v England, it’s bigger than India v Australia.
Pakistan and India have not played a bilateral series since 2008. Both teams have been playing each other only in multi-team events, at neutral venues.
In 2015, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to play six bilateral series between 2015 and 2023. However, the Indian government did not give permission for the series to go ahead, citing security concerns.
The PCB subsequently filed a case with the International Cricket Council (ICC), seeking compensation for the losses incurred due to the cancellation of the series. As expected, the ICC dismissed the case, stating that it did not have the authority to adjudicate the dispute.
In 2019, the PCB once again invited the BCCI to play a series in Pakistan, but the BCCI again declined, stating the same reasons as before. The PCB then suggested that the series could be played at a neutral venue, such as the United Arab Emirates, but the BCCI turned down the request.
Pakistani and Indian fans are desperate to watch the high-voltage game between the two arch-rivals as the fact that cricket is such a popular sport in both countries means that there is a lot of public pressure to resume the bilateral series. However, it is unlikely that this will happen anytime soon, given the current state of relations between Pakistan and India.