The PCB has proposed that India can play their Asia Cup matches at a neutral venue while Pakistan and other competing teams play in the host country, its chief Najam Sethi revealed on Friday. Sethi said they have sent a proposal to the Asian Cricket Council (ACC). The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had refused to travel to Pakistan due to political tension between the two nations and demanded the shifting of the continental tournament to a neutral venue.
“We have decided on this hybrid model that Pakistan plays its Asia Cup matches at home and India their matches at a neutral venue and that is our proposal to the Asian Cricket Council,” said Sethi, who took over as the PCB chairman from former cricketer Ramiz Raja during a press conference.
The Asia Cup, involving six teams, will be played from September 2 to 17, although the exact schedule of matches is yet to be announced due to uncertainty over the venue. Besides Pakistan and India, the other competing countries are Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and one team which will emerge from the ACC qualifiers. The qualifying tournament is underway in Nepal.
Sethi hoped that the visit of his country’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari next month to the Indian coastal city of Goa for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) Council meeting will help thaw relations between the two nations. “We have been told that, maybe, the ice will keep on melting. If this happens when the Champions Trophy is held in Pakistan in 2025, India would consider playing in Pakistan. We have been advised to play the Asia Cup at a neutral venue and also go to India for the World Cup,” said Sethi but did not say exactly who advised them. Sethi indicated the public mood in his country is that Pakistan should play cricket with India on level terms.
“Our government has imposed no restrictions about playing against India. But I can say right now that public mood is, we are not needy and we can stand on our own feet financially and we want to play cricket with India honourably. We are also negotiating with the ACC,” Sethi said. The PCB chairman, however, did not specify who in the government was advising the PCB on the issue.
Sethi said that if Pakistan decides to shift all India matches in the Asia Cup to a neutral venue, the neighbors should also apply the same hybrid experiment during the 50-over World Cup in October-November this year. India is hosting the World Cup and there is talk across the border that Pakistan’s matches should be moved to neutral venues. “We feel this hybrid experiment can also be applied when it is time for the World Cup,” said Sethi.
“Our stand is that everything should be on a reciprocal basis. In the old times, yes there were security issues in Pakistan. But now there are no issues, so what is India’s excuse for not playing in Pakistan,” he added.
The ACC, led by BCCI secretary Jay Shah, is yet to respond to the PCB regarding the proposed hybrid model. Reports say that the other ACC members also want the Asia Cup to be held at a neutral venue to save cost even though Pakistan will remain the tournament host.