The PCB’s hybrid model solution for the Asia Cup will see four of the 13 matches to be played in Pakistan – including the final – played at a neutral venue, which could be the United Arab Emirates. Board chief Najam Sethi told the BBC stumped podcast that he was optimistic about the tournament being played in Pakistan despite two Asian Cricket Council (ACC) members raising objections to a hybrid solution and the more pressing problem of India not being allowed to travel to Pakistan.
He also said that if the hybrid model works during the Asia Cup, it could pave the way for its use in the one-day World Cup to be held in India later this year. Given the fractious and strained relations between India and Pakistan, Sethi said there is a “distinct possibility” that the Pakistan government does not allow Pakistanis to travel to India.
ESPNcricinfo understands that keeping the four matches in Pakistan is to ensure PCB’s long-term strategy of high-profile international cricket and hosting the tournament in Pakistan continues uninterrupted.
“My mandate given to me by the government, the media and the people of Pakistan is that this should be a respectful and reciprocal arrangement,” Sethi said. “We are happy to play in the Asia Cup but it cannot be that India refuses to come to Pakistan and then also does not allow us to host some of our matches at neutral venues,” he said. Cup, we have the World Cup coming up and it is going to be held in India and it is an ICC event. What if India doesn’t come to Pakistan or India torpedoes my hybrid model? I don’t think my government will allow me to go to India to play the World Cup.”
The idea of this hybrid solution, and the prospect of a neutral leg being played in the UAE, has not gone down well with the Sri Lankan and Bangladesh boards. They have raised logistical and operational objections as well as the heat in the UAE at that time of year. Sethi insisted that as the host nation, it was up to the PCB to decide where the neutral venue should be.
“I am quite surprised that this idea is being spread unauthorisedly by Sri Lanka and Bangladesh,” he said. “In the last ACC meeting, which took place about a month back, we all agreed that it was imperative that Pakistan play the Asia Cup and without Pakistan there would be no Asia Cup. About 80% of the Asia Cup’s revenue comes from India.” Pakistan matches, the way the schedule is designed, we play at least two of them and possibly three if we are both in the final. Bangladesh’s only objection was that it was going to be very hot in the UAE in September and that would be a problem. Then the other issue was logistics. The proposal I have presented takes care of all the logistical problems.”
The PCB also wishes to point out that both the 2018 and 2022 editions of the Asia Cup were played in the UAE in September.
According to Sethi, time is running out to take a decision. He said that the board needs three months for preparation. “We need to reserve venues in UAE or Sri Lanka or wherever we decide. Time is already over, ACC has to decide. We have made our position clear. Had a meeting with a high level ACC negotiator. Earlier in Dubai. He liked it, said it was very practical. He said he would go back [BCCI secretary and ACC president] Jai Shah and talk to him.
“We need to resolve the issue first [of accepting the hybrid solution] And then we can sit in front of a table and decide where to play. We would be reasonable. The interlocutor said that I have briefed Jay Shah about our meeting, he has agreed to it. He now wants to investigate with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. So let’s see where it goes.”
As has been the case during the long negotiations over the ending of this tournament, Sethi raised the specter of worst-case consequences with the Asia Cup. “There’s a very distinct possibility [of Pakistan not playing in the World Cup] If we don’t come to a solution now. I raised this issue in the ACC meeting held in Bahrain and I invited the ICC chairman [Greg Barclay] Come and sit with us and hear what we are talking about.
“The idea is that if the hybrid model works here, we can make it work well in the World Cup. Meaning Pakistan’s matches can be in Bangladesh or the UAE, one hop away and we can have it and all the other games.” can solve.” in India. Why can’t India come and play in Pakistan? If India comes and plays in Pakistan, we can go there and play and the matter will be settled.”