Hosting rights for the 2023 Asia Cup have been given to Pakistan, but with the BCCI making it clear on Tuesday that the Indian team won’t go across the border for the tournament, it is now likely to be held at a neutral venue.
BCCI secretary Jay Shah, who started a second term in office on Tuesday, said the Asia Cup – to be staged in the 50-over format ahead of the World Cup in India, will now have to be held somewhere else.
Bilateral series against Pakistan or touring the neighbouring country have been prickly issues and the BCCI needs government approval before going ahead.
Shah is also the president of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) and as such, his statement would, more or less, end any possibility of the tournament being held in Pakistan.
“The Asia Cup 2023 will be held at a neutral venue. I am saying this as ACC President. We [India] can’t go there [to Pakistan], they can’t come here. In the past also, the Asia Cup has been played at a neutral venue,” Shah said after the 91st BCCI annual general meeting in Mumbai, in the presence of new Board president Roger Binny.
While speaking to reporters, he stressed that on the issue of playing with Pakistan, there is a policy in place and the BCCI will follow that. BCCI vice-president Rajeev Shukla, seated next to Shah, explained that the Board will need the government clearance to play Pakistan.
India last travelled to Pakistan for a bilateral series in 2005-06 under the captaincy of current Team India coach Rahul Dravid. However, India did travel to Pakistan in 2008 to compete in the Asia Cup.
The 2022 Asia Cup was held in the UAE last month after hosts Sri Lanka expressed their inability to host the event amid the economic crisis back home. India and Pakistan played twice in the tournament and are set to clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on October 23 in the T20 World Cup. It is the most predictable early-round fixture in ICC tournaments.
India and Pakistan now only play each other in the Asia Cup and global events due to political tensions between the two neighbours.
Dada snubbed again
Meanwhile, the BCCI AGM has given powers to its office-bearers to decide on who will represent BCCI at the International Cricket Council election for its chairman. It is learnt that the BCCI will back incumbent Greg Barclay and will not endorse Sourav Ganguly’s name for the post. Shah will represent the BCCI at the ICC meet.
On Monday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee had said that she will request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow the former India captain and BCCI chief to contest for the position of ICC chairperson. Ganguly was present at the BCCI AGM and many members whom The Indian Express spoke to said that Ganguly won’t be the Board’s choice.
Asked whether the BCCI had decided its representative at the ICC meet and who it will back for the chairman’s post, Shukla said, “We have not decided anything on the ICC chairman post yet. As a tradition, all the members have authorised the office-bearers to take a call on that. We are still to nominate our members for the Apex Council. ICC elections are still far away and we will take a call at the appropriate time.”
Meanwhile, new BCCI president Binny said that one area of focus will be to reduce injuries to players.
“Players getting frequently injured is a concern and we wish to get to the bottom of it all and see how it can be changed for the better. We have excellent doctors and trainers at the National Cricket Academy but we have to look to reduce the injuries and improve recovery.”
The former India bowler said that the BCCI will look at improving pitches in domestic cricket. “There needs to be more life in the wickets at home, so that our teams would not have the problem of adjusting when travelling abroad, like in Australia where there is more pace and bounce.”
Selection committee to change?
It is learnt that the BCCI top bosses are contemplating changing the senior selection committee post the T20 World Cup. It’s not clear whether the board will change the entire panel or just a few members. The selection committee currently has four members, instead of five. It is headed by Chetan Sharma and comprises Sunil Joshi, Harvinder Singh and Debashish Mohanty.
BCCI also approved having a women’s IPL from next year.
“We, in principle, have decided to start a women’s IPL and the governing council has been asked to finalise the details for the same. Franchise auction and all other things will be decided in time,” Shukla informed.
Interestingly, it was the first time the BCCI asked its office-bearers and journalists to hand over their phones to the BCCI staff before the press conference.