Pakistan likely to travel to India for World Cup

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KARACHI: Pakistan will most likely travel to India for the upcoming World Cup after the hybrid model proposed by the country’s board for the preceding Asia Cup was accepted by its counterparts across the border.

The hybrid model will see Pakistan retain their status as the hosts of the Asia Cup — holding four or five matches — before the tournament moves to another venue where India will play their group games with the second-round and the knockout-stage matches to follow at the same venue — most likely to be Sri Lanka.

The model had received long-standing opposition from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) before it was finally accepted over the last weekend and an official announcement by the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) is expected in the next two to three days. The tournament is set to be played in September.

The PCB had been ready to show flexibility over a tit-for-tat stance it had threatened to take come the World Cup had the BCCI rejected the hybrid model. The former had also expected the Pakistan government to grant approval for the country’s team to travel to India for the 50-over showpiece “much easily” if the proposed model was accepted.

Ahmedabad clash against hosts subject to govt approval

It is, therefore, understood that Pakistan will feature in India for the first time since 2016. Whether they take on the hosts, their arch-rivals, in Ahmedabad — as proposed in a draft schedule sent by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to the boards of the participating sides — is also to be decided by the country’s government.

Dawn understands the PCB, having received the draft schedule as well, has started it’s consultations with the government over the fixture list and a decision is expected to be made in the coming week.

That would also mean that the official schedule of the World Cup will be released just over three months ahead of the first game of the tournament on October 5.

According to the draft schedule Pakistan will kick off their campaign on October 6 against one of the teams coming through from the preceding qualifying round in Hyderabad before taking on another qualifier at the same venue on October 12.

The Babar Azam-led unit is scheduled to fly out to Ahmedabad for the high-octane clash against India on October 15 before playing Australia five days later in Bengaluru and Afghanistan and South Africa in Chennai on October 23 and 27.

After locking horns with Bangladesh in Kolkata four days later, Pakistan will return to Bengaluru for their match against New Zealand on November 5 before concluding the league stage with their fixture against England in Kolkata on November 12.

The dates and venues for the tournament’s semi-finals and final have not been included in the draft schedule

‘ACC’S FUTURE SECURED’

According to sources, the PCB is looking at the hybrid model’s acceptance as a saviour of the ACC — a cricketing bloc formed in 1983 to protect the interests of Asia’s cricketing nations.

The board’s high-ups believe that the strength of the continental cricket body will see the game thrive in the future and that the hybrid model will go onto be seen as a blueprint for the future come complex situations like the political tensions between India and Pakistan — which have deprived the countries’ sides from bilateral cricket since 2012.

The PCB is now also confident about hosting the 2025 ICC Champions Trophy, the rights of staging which the board won two years ago. There is also a belief in the board’s offices that if Pakistan travel to India for the World Cup, there will be very few reasons for the BCCI to not return the favour come the Champions Trophy.