The Pakistan cricket team is not “comfortable” playing some of the participating teams at specific venues during the ODI World Cup in India, including Afghanistan in Chennai and Australia in Bengaluru.
The deadlock over the Asia Cup staging has ended and now Pakistan is expected to travel to India for the World Cup in October-November. The much-awaited contest between India and Pakistan is likely to place in Ahmedabad on October 15.
Before announcing the World Cup schedule, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has asked members boards including the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for suggestions on the proposed itinerary.
A reliable source in the PCB said that the board’s data, analytics and team strategy experts have been given the task of approving the venues where the ICC and BCCI have tentatively scheduled Pakistan’s matches for the 50-over mega event.
“The PCB sent the tentative itinerary for the team to the selectors/experts who apparently are not comfortable with some of the Pakistan team’s scheduled matches and venues like they have reservations on Pakistan playing Afghanistan in Chennai and Australia at Bengaluru,” the source said.
Playing Afghanistan in spin-friendly Chennai would mean facing the likes of Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmad, who did well for Gujarat Titans in the 2023 Indian Premier League (IPL).
Conditions in Bengaluru are usually batting-friendly and it is hard to understand why Pakistan would have reservations about playing Australia at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. The PCB source said the selectors, who are also part of the team management, have advised the board not to accept Chennai as the venue for the match against Afghanistan as it was historically and statistically a venue which favoured spinners.
“The suggestion is to ask the ICC/BCCI to reschedule Pakistan’s matches and play Afghanistan in Bengaluru and Australia in Chennai to the team’s strength,” the source claimed.
However, a BCCI source said the ICC asking members for suggestions on the itinerary is part of the protocol and there has to be a strong reason for the venues to be changed.
“A member board can push for a venue change due to safety reasons like Pakistan did in 2016 when they travelled India for the T20 World Cup. If you start expressing reservations over a venue as per your team’s strengths and weaknesses on the field, then it becomes very tough to finalise the schedule.
“So unless there is a strong enough reason, no changes are made as far as the venues are concerned,” said the source referring to the Indo-Pak contest in 2016 when the game was shifted to Kolkata from Dharamsala.
Last month, the PCB announced a new look national selection committee which for the first time had a secretary, manager analytics and team strategy for the national side in Hassan Cheema while also including Mickey Arthur, who is the national men’s team’s director, and head coach Grant Bradburn.
Chief Selector Haroon Rasheed has said that in a bid to embrace the requirements of modern-day cricket the selectors would be depending heavily on data and analytics to develop a team strategy before any match.
Asked about whether Pakistan was willing to play its showpiece match against India at Ahmedabad, the PCB source said it was agreed upon more or less but a final call would come from the government.
Pakistan team’s initial two qualifying matches are slated in Hyderabad for October 6 and 12. The other venues where Pakistan are expected to play in are Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Ahmedabad.
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