Asia Cup: Jay Shah's take on Pakistan leaves a bad taste in the mouth

Tournament stays hostage to rain as Super Four matches and final stay in Colombo

Jay Shah, BCCI secretary and also president of Asian Cricket Council, presents a golden ticket of the ICC World Cup to Amitabh Bachchan. (Photo: @BCCI/X)
Jay Shah, BCCI secretary and also president of Asian Cricket Council, presents a golden ticket of the ICC World Cup to Amitabh Bachchan. (Photo: @BCCI/X)

NH Sports Bureau

The flipflop over the venue of the five Super Four matches of the Asia Cup, along with it’s final on September 17, has been finally put to rest as the matches will now stay in the capital city of Colombo. The Sri Lankan cricket board had earlier proposed to shift the remaining matches to Hambantota – in view of the dry weather prediction in the south eastern part of the country after the rains played spoilsport in the India-Pakistan game. 

The Super Four stage gets underway on Wednesday in Lahore with official hosts Pakistan taking on Bangladesh before the action resumes again in Colombo on Saturday, with a two-day break to allow the teams’ travel. The all-important India-Pakistan game hence will be played in the Lankan capital on Sunday, with chances of a third face-off between them also looking bright in case they make the final.

Incidentally, Cricket Sri Lanka’s proposal to shift the matches from Colombo – the orginal venue – to Hambantota was based on forecast of rains there but the weather prediction has become more favourable in the former. While Pakistan had reportedly agreed to play in Hambantota, India were not – and there is no gainsaying that it would have been a logistical mightmare to accommodate the four teams and the large retinue of officials, broadcasting teams et al in a city with scarcity of hotels close to the venue. 

However, the remaining six matches of the historic continental event (from Saturday onwards) will now be held hostage to the weather as Colombo and rains around this time of the year have been synonymous over the years. The only occasion when an ICC Champions Trophy had to be shared (between India & Sri Lanka) was in 2002 when no play was possible in the final after two days.  

There is no way one can fight the nature, but what strikes a discordant note is the failure of India and Pakistan boards to be on sync – at least for a tournament which was essentially a brainchild of the Indian sub-continent. The opening salvo from Najam Sethi, former chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the repartee from Jay Shah, the ACC president and BCCI secretary on Tuesday lays bare the fissure right in the middle of the tournament.  

 Sethi, who was replaced by current incumbent Zaka Ashraf in June, took on the ACC by criticising the schedule of the Asia Cup after rains put a spanner in the much-hyped India-Pakistan game. He also felt that ‘’poor excuses’’ were made against having the UAE as a neutral hosts with an effort to accommodate Lanka as co-hosts. 

Responding to charges from an official who is now a persona non grata, Shah was stinging in a lengthy statement when he said on Tuesday that all the stakeholders (teams, broadcasters etcetera) ‘’were initially hesitant to commit to hosting the entire tournament in Pakistan due to concerns related to the security and economic condition prevailing in the country.’’  

While India’s position of not touring Pakistan has been a well laid down fact for sometime, all the participating Asia Cup nations will have played their league games in Pakistan this time. Since the beginning of 2022, Australia, England, South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies have also toured the country. Incidentally, BCCI president Roger Binny became the first Indian board chief to visit Pakistan after 17 years – along with their vice-president Rajiv Shukla – on invitation of PCB to be guests at the Asia Cup. 

Meanwhile, how tenable is Shah’s statement about the feedback from the participating teams about not wanting to play in the UAE in view of the extreme heat in the Gulf country during this time of the year? According to him, the Asia Cup played in the UAE last year was in T20 format while the risk of playing 100 overs – so close to a marquee tournament like the ICC World Cup put off the high performance of the teams. 

Point taken, but it’s only a half-truth. BCCI, in it’s capacity as ‘hosts,’ had actually staged a 50-overs Asia Cup in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 2018 between September 15-28. India had beaten Bangladesh by the barest of margins in that event. 

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