Will the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) host the Asia Cup in Pakistan or shift it to a neutral venue — the United Arab Emirates? For the last few days, this seems to be the subject of discussion in cricketing circles.
Even though there hasn’t yet been any official word, it has been learned that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) may not travel to Pakistan for the tournament owing to security concerns.
Speaking to Sportstar on Friday, PCB chairman Ehsan Mani made it clear that the Board will wait for the Asian Cricket Council meeting — scheduled to be held later this month or in early March — to get a clearer picture on the issue. “We will discuss the matter jointly, same as we decided last time (in 2018), when India had to host the Asia Cup in the UAE as they could not guarantee visas for Pakistan players,” Mani said.
Mani, who has previously headed the International Cricket Council, was confident that all the boards will take a collective decision “in the best interest of Asian cricket.”
Excerpts from an interview…
Q. Over the last few months, international cricket has returned to Pakistan with teams like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka touring the country. How do you see that?
A. It’s long overdue. Countries have been reluctant to visit Pakistan for a long time. For the last few years, there have been no reasons to be reluctant. But with anything like this invariably, they come expecting security change, they talk to their embassies. They realise that Pakistan is a safe country in the world. In fact, now when they come, they feel there is too much security.
This year, the entire Pakistan Super League will be held in the country. Do you think it will be a game changing moment for the sport in Pakistan?
The proof in the pudding is in the eating! We had over 425 overseas players applying for the drafts of the PSL. The PSL owners chose 40 of them, which is only 10 per cent. But the fact is 425 overseas players had applied for the spots. That in itself in a strong indication of how things are.
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This time the Asia Cup has been allotted to Pakistan. With India expressing security concerns, there is no clarity on whether the matches will be held there…
We are the host this time as per the Asian Cricket Council policies. This is an Asian Cricket Council event, and when we have the next meeting, we will collectively decide about it. It’s not about India or Pakistan, it’s the Asian countries as a whole, who will decide where the tournament will be hosted. We don’t have any issues with it. Had it been an India-Pakistan series, [it would have been a different matter]. It’s not that case. Here we will take a collective decision as responsible people, looking after Asian cricket.
As far as hosting India is concerned, we don’t have any bilateral series scheduled. In terms of the Asia Cup, it is entirely ACC’s matter. We will discuss the matter jointly, same as we decided last time (in 2018), when India had to host the Asia Cup in the UAE as they could not guarantee visas for Pakistan players.
In case India doesn’t get clearances to tour Pakistan, is the PCB ready to host the entire tournament or India-specific matches in a neutral venue?
I won’t comment on that because the BCCI has not been in touch with us. When we discuss it at the ACC meeting, we will talk about that. I don’t want to speculate at the moment.
When can we get a clarity on the issue? When is the ACC meeting next to address the concerns?
I believe, it should be scheduled in end of February or early March. I am still waiting for the final dates. The current chief of the ACC is Najmul Hasan Papon and he will decide on the date and let the members know.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly completed 100 days in office on Friday. When he took charge, most of the boards believed that a cricketer at the helm will provide a big boost for the game. As far as the PCB is concerned, how has been the equation so far?
When Sourav got appointed, I wrote a letter to him congratulating him and stated that I would be looking forward to meeting him at the international level for the betterment of the game. I haven’t heard anything back from him. But he is a great player and has great contribution to the game — both as a player and as captain of India. My only interest, which I think every cricket lover has, is to put the game of cricket beyond politics. As long as he works for the betterment of the game, I look forward to working with him.
What about Pakistan touring India for next year’s T20 World Cup?
As far as that’s concerned, it’s between the BCCI and the ICC. Being the host country, it is up to the BCCI to guarantee visas for the visiting countries. It’s between them to sit and sort all that out.
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