After Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, two more countries — Afghanistan and Nepal — have also announced support for Pakistan’s “hybrid” model to host the upcoming Asia Cup 2023, leaving India in a tight spot regarding its participation in the regional tournament.
The ever-resistant India has been opposing to tour Pakistan citing security concerns due to the strained diplomatic ties. Bilateral cricket has been a casualty of the soured relations between Pakistan and India over the last decade and the neighbouring countries now play each other only in multi-team events in neutral venues.
Keeping India’s concerns in view, PCB has proposed a “hybrid model” allowing the neighbouring country to play their matches of Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
While the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is yet to deliver a formal response to the offer, PCB authorities believed that India wanted the entire tournament to be moved out of Pakistan.
However, as Pakistan has gained the support of four major countries for the “hybrid model”, India is left with less options to ensure its participation, sources said.
PCB has offered two options in the hybrid model and has been making hectic efforts to convince all the ACC members to agree to its proposal.
The hybrid model
In the first option, India will play their matches at a neutral venue whereas all other matches will be played in Pakistan.
In another option, four matches of the group stage in the first phase will take place in Pakistan whereas the second phase, in which matches of the Indian team followed by the next stage matches including the final, will be played at a neutral venue.
The sources told Geo News that the cricket boards of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal have agreed on the second option, according to which these teams will play their group matches in Pakistan, before the league moves to a neutral venue which will be decided mutually.
However, a deadlock over whether to host the second phase in Sri Lanka or Dubai persists as all countries except for Pakistan favour holding the event in the South Asian country.
PCB wants UAE to be the neutral venue as it ensures gate money will go into their account. However, two cities in Sri Lanka, Dambulla and Pallekele, can also be considered neutral venues.
The consent of four major teams and the strong stance presented by PCB chief Najam Sethi before Asian Cricket Council (ACC) has put India in difficulty, sources said.
They said that making a decision in regard with India’s participation in Asia Cup 2023 has become an uphill task for BCCI and ACC as there are very few options left.
The sources said the ACC vice-president who met Sethi has informed ACC President Jay Shah about the details of the meeting.
They said that it was possible now that India conditions Pakistan to tour the country for World Cup in exchange for agreeing to the hybrid model. This will lead the PCB to consult with the government, they added.
The sources further stated that Shah can also seek the authorities’ opinion on Asia Cup 2023 on the occasion of BCCI’s special meeting. They said that the matters related to World Cup and Asia Cup are facing delays due to Shah’s engagements in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL).
As per sources, PCB is awaiting India’s decision regarding Asia Cup in the coming week, after which Pakistan will decide on its mode of participation in the World Cup.
It may be noted that Pakistan has not given a green signal on visiting India to participate in the mega event.