'If ACC insists on one venue for Asia Cup, we shall not play' - PCB chief on Pakistan's stance
Pakistan seems to have taken an unrelenting stance on its proposed 'hybrid model' for the Asia Cup 2023, with the country's cricket board chief Najam Sethi stating any arrangement that takes the regional competition out of their territory will witness a boycott from PCB.
The forthcoming edition of the biannual competition has been under dark clouds for quite some time now as the PCB-BCCI tussle it out to have the hosting situation their way. While the PCB wants the tournament to be at least partly held in Pakistan, the BCCI has categorically said India won't travel across the border.
The obvious politicking in the matter aside, the ACC and host broadcaster Star Sports facing logistical hurdles to cater to the PCB-suggested 'hybrid model' is also a barrier to the six-team event, acting as a prelude to the ODI World Cup in India.
PCB chairman Sethi, however, said those logistical hurdles can be crossed as his board can put up one production team of its own for the Asia Cup matches played in Pakistan and Star can produce the rest at a neutral venue. The bone of contention, Sethi said, is for member countries, especially the BCCI, to agree to the hybrid model first. If any other proposal passes through, he confirmed, Pakistan won't play the Asia Cup.
PCB threatens Pakistan boycott for Asia Cup
"No, we haven’t made a decision," said Sethi in an interview with the Indian Express when asked if his PCB regime has arrived at a neutral venue for its hybrid model amid reports that Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or UAE could be considered, although with objections to September heatwave in the Middle East and logistics.
"I think the best thing would be for us to all sit together and decide on a mutually acceptable venue," the PCB chief said. "So, no decision has yet been taken about whether it will be the UAE or Sri Lanka, or it could be a third venue. We don’t know. But I think we cross that bridge when we come to it."
The board chairman clarified, however, that if Pakistan is completely axed as the tournament hosts for the Asia Cup, the country might give the regional event a skip, potentially leading to massive losses since the India-Pakistan clash is the biggest driver for the competition and generates 80% of its revenue for the broadcasters and sponsors.
"The first question is: Will the hybrid model be acceptable? In case ACC insists that all the games are to be held at one venue, we shall not play the Asia Cup," he added, explaining that as per the hybrid model, teams other than India due to play Pakistan can first play "four matches" in Pakistan with one production team appointed by PCB and travel across to the neutral ground for the rest of the tournament.
Sethi also accused his BCCI counterparts of bringing geopolitical differences into a cricketing matter and threatened direct repercussions of India giving the Pakistan trip a miss on the World Cup due to be held in October-November.
"If for one political reason or another, the BCCI is unable to come to Pakistan, especially when we are the hosts and all the other countries are ready to play in Pakistan, I think reciprocity demands that we say the same thing to India – ‘If you’re not going to come to Pakistan, we are not going to go to India’. That’s the way it is now," he said.