Asia Cup 2023 – Sri Lanka, Bangladesh give thumbs down to PCB’s hybrid hosting model

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The PCB presented its “hybrid” solution for hosting the 2023 Asia Cup again to the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), believing that this time it had resolved logistical and technical concerns the ACC had raised. Officials from both sides met in Dubai on Tuesday, but it emerged that Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) have both objected to holding a part of the tournament in the UAE.

The hybrid model was the solution the PCB had proposed to account for the fact that India would not travel to Pakistan for the tournament because of ongoing political tensions between the governments of the two countries. The proposed solution will have India playing all their games in the UAE, with the rest of the tournament played out in Pakistan.

But ESPNcricinfo understands that the BCB and SLC cited logistical challenges involved in travelling between Pakistan and a second country during the Asia Cup, which is scheduled to be played in September, a month before the ODI World Cup is held across India. Both boards also pointed out that the extreme heat in the UAE in the first half of September was a deterrent, too.

“We have written to the ACC to say that we are against the hybrid model,” Mohan de Silva, the SLC secretary, told ESPNcricinfo. “But beyond that, no final decision has been reached. It’s very hot in the UAE at that time of year.”

In what is becoming an increasingly vexed issue, a PCB official countered by claiming that the board has emails from both BCB and SLC confirming they have no issues playing in Pakistan. The official also pointed out that last year’s Asia Cup was played from August 27 to September 11 in the UAE – the same window the boards are objecting to this time. In 2018, a 50-over version of the Asia Cup was also played in the UAE, from September 15-28. Both those events moved to the UAE as an alternative; in the first instance the tournament was supposed to be played in India but was moved because of India-Pakistan political tensions; last year it was shifted from Sri Lanka because of the political and economic turmoil the country was going through at the time.

One suggestion is for the PCB to follow the example of SLC, which retained the hosting rights for the 2022 edition but host it outside the country. This time, Sri Lanka has been talked about as a probable neutral venue and de Silva said SLC was ready. “If the offer is there to play the tournament in Sri Lanka, we will take it,” he said. “Pakistan will be the official hosts.”

But the PCB remains adamant that its solution works for everyone. “The PCB presented a hybrid model that resolves issues of logistics and travel and production,” a PCB official told ESPNcricinfo. “The board reiterated its position that we would not play the Asia Cup if the Pakistan-plus-neutral-venue model is rejected.”

Afghanistan, meanwhile, are neutral. “In the previous two ACC meetings, we have strongly emphasised the importance of conducting the event at the scheduled time,” an Afghanistan spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo. “As for the venue, we are abiding by the decisions made by the ACC and have no interest in favouring or objecting to any particular board’s stance on the matter. Our priority is to ensure a fair and competitive tournament that benefits the growth and development of cricket in the region.”

India and Pakistan have been grouped together along with Nepal in the six-nation Asia Cup, scheduled to be held in the 50-over format as preparation for the World Cup. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are in the other group. A total of 13 matches, including the final, will be played across 13 days. Like the format from 2022, the top two teams from each group advance to the Super 4s and the top two teams then contest the final. That leaves open the possibility of India and Pakistan playing three times, should both make it to the final.

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