The Indian and Pakistan cricket boards put themselves on a collision course on Tuesday after BCCI secretary Jay Shah said the 2023 Asia Cup will be played at a neutral venue, prompting the neighbours to threaten a boycott of next year’s ODI World Cup. The hosting rights of the 2023 edition of the 50-over Asia Cup has been awarded to Pakistan by the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) as a pre-cursor to the marquee World Cup in India. Incidentally, Shah is the president of the Asian Cricket Council.
The matter of India playing the Asia Cup in Pakistan was stated in the notes circulated to the BCCI members before Tuesday’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Mumbai.
“We have decided to play at a neutral venue,” Shah was quoted as saying by multiple cricket websites after the conclusion of the AGM.
One of the reasons cited for not playing in Pakistan was that there has been precedence in the past of the continental event being shifted at a neutral venue.
India hasn’t travelled to Pakistan since the 2008 Asia Cup, and after the Mumbai terrorist attack on November 26 that year, the scheduled bilateral series in early 2009 was cancelled.
The other reason cited was the Sri Lankan team bus being attacked by terrorists in Lahore, after which no international team visited the country for more than a decade due to security reasons.
Pakistan did travel to India for a short six-match white-ball series in 2012, but in the last 10 years, there hasn’t been any bilateral cricket. The two teams have only played each other at various ICC and ACC events.
The PCB is irked as international cricket has resumed in the country with all top nations like England, Australia, West Indies travelling there to play Tests and white-ball rubbers.
Sources close to PCB chairman Ramiz Raja indicated that one of the options that they are mulling after Shah’s statement is to pull out of the 50-over ICC World Cup in India.
“The PCB is now prepared to take hard decisions and play hard ball because it is also aware that the ICC and ACC events will have to face commercial liabilities and losses if Pakistan does not play India in these multi-team events,” a senior PCB source told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
Pakistan last came to India for a short six-match white-ball bilateral series in 2012.
The PCB, when contacted, declined to give an official reaction to Shah’s statement.
“We have nothing to say at the moment, but yes, we will look at things and take up this matter at appropriate forums like the ICC board meeting in Melbourne next month,” a spokesperson said.
However, it has been learnt that the PCB chairman and other senior officials were very upset about the announcement by Shah.
“The PCB officials are surprised at the timing of Jay Shah’s statement because there is still nearly a year to go before the Asia Cup is held in Pakistan in September 2023,” an insider said.
He said the PCB was aware that the issue of India travelling to Pakistan for the Asia Cup was on the agenda at the BCCI AGM but didn’t expect any announcement on this issue at this time.
“The PCB is wondering in what capacity has Jay Shah given the statement that the ACC will look to relocate the Asia Cup to UAE out of Pakistan, because the hosting rights were awarded by the executive board of the ACC, not the president,” the PCB source said.
PCB could pull out of ACC membership
The PCB sources said that Raja would be sending a strongly-worded letter to the ACC on the matter and would be demanding an emergency meeting of the ACC board to be convened in Melbourne next month to discuss Shah’s statement.
The insider also disclosed that the PCB had decided to look at several options and would not accept any disruption to its hosting rights.
“One option under consideration will be to pull out of the ACC as the PCB believes the ACC was formed to promote and develop cricket in the region and forge unity among the member nations.
“But if the president of the ACC is going to give statements like these, there is no use for Pakistan to remain in the body,” he added.