At the turn of the year, Pakistan’s Ehsan Mani announced emphatically that Pakistan would no longer host in neutral venues. Kumar Sangakkara, former Sri Lankan captain and now a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) hoped that the MCC experiment to play in Pakistan would induce others to return to the strife-torn country. However, it would appear that ahead of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) meet, Pakistan has given up hosting the Asia Cup after all. But is there a catch?
As the ACC convenes, possibly with Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president, speculated to attend the meeting in Dubai, there is a word that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is willing to back down from its original stance of wanting to host this edition of the Asia Cup on its own soil. With India unwilling to meet Pakistan on the field even in the event of a multi-team tournament on Pakistan soil, there was real concern that the tournament itself might be a no-go given the kind of revenue and eyeballs India generates.
In recent days, Pakistan have had Sri Lanka visit them in segregated tours and Bangladesh were unwilling to commit to the Test part of the tour without first taking stock of the situation.
With the possibility of the Asia Cup becoming an eyewash, it would appear that Pakistan’s backing down might have had to do with some kind of a quid-pro-quo deal whereby Pakistan can still host a contest on bilateral terms on its own turf while relenting to host the tournament in Dubai as India did two years ago when it was its turn to host the tournament.
The Asia Cup is slated for the months before the commencement of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Australia. Keeping that in mind, the tournament has been revised from a fifty overs a side tournament to a Twenty20 tournament so as to give all the participating teams an opportunity to prepare for the big ICC event in a real-time match situation. Without India, those plans might have been nothing more than lip service.
It will be interesting to see what kind of bargain the PCB is able to work out because its previous attempts to arm-twist India in the ICC meetings and in the courts have yielded nothing for them. If the Asia Cup is indeed held outside of Pakistan, it would emphasize once more the BCCI’s utter dominance over its Asian compatriots, sealing once more than the Future Tours Programme could continue to be marred by the stance taken by the Indian government that India will not travel to Pakistan to play cricket nor will it cost Pakistan, a position it has maintained since the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008 with the Pakistan cricketers not having the opportunity to participate in the financially lucrative Indian Premier League thereafter.