The much-anticipated Asia Cup 2023 is likely to be played without the participation of Pakistan, as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) stands firm in its stance. Despite the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) successful persuasion of other Asian nations, the BCCI, led by Secretary Jay Shah, who is also the head of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), is determined to organize the tournament without the presence of Babar Azam and his team. A final decision on the matter is expected to be reached later this week. With a strong partnership between the BCCI and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), the Indian board has rejected the PCB’s efforts and is pushing for the tournament to take place in Sri Lanka. A clear message will be conveyed to PCB Chief Najam Sethi during the upcoming ACC meeting.
“There is absolutely no chance that Pakistan will host the Asia Cup. We will take this matter to the ICC and request the Champions Trophy to be relocated as well. As of now, Sri Lanka is likely to be the host for the tournament, but the final decision will be made during the ACC meeting,” revealed a senior BCCI official familiar with the developments.
The PCB had proposed a new hybrid model for the Asia Cup 2023, which involved two phases. In the first phase, Pakistan would host Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Nepal, while the second phase would see India’s matches being played at a neutral venue. Sri Lanka was preferred as the neutral venue due to opposition from India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka themselves regarding playing in the UAE due to the extreme heat. The neutral venue would also host the final, even if India failed to qualify. The ACC is expected to officially announce the hybrid model and release the schedule by the end of June.
As the BCCI takes a firm stance, the PCB finds itself in a difficult position. It is clear that the decision is now out of Pakistan’s hands, and the BCCI’s “my way or the highway” approach leaves Pakistan with the choice to either accept or refuse to participate in the Asia Cup. In response, Pakistan has already initiated talks with South Africa and Zimbabwe for a potential Tri-Nation series should the deadlock over the Asia Cup continue. It appears likely that Pakistan will boycott the Asia Cup and opt for an alternate series instead.
The fate of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 hangs in the balance as well, as the PCB engages in discussions with ICC delegates, including Chairman Greg Barclay and CEO Geoff Allardice. The ICC is attempting to mediate a solution to ensure an India-Pakistan match in the World Cup and ICC Champions Trophy. The PCB has threatened to either withdraw from the World Cup or demand neutral venues for their matches. The ICC faces a challenging task in finding a resolution. Ultimately, it is the decision of the Pakistan government whether they will send the team to India or not.
PCB Chief Najam Sethi has warned that if the Asia Cup is moved from Pakistan, they will not travel to India for the World Cup unless the government allows them to do so. The situation remains tense, with various stakeholders working towards finding a mutually acceptable outcome that preserves the spirit of cricket and maintains the tournament’s integrity.