Neutral venue not confirmed although the UAE, Oman, Sri Lanka and perhaps England are likely possibilities
The 2023 Asia Cup is scheduled to be held in Pakistan with another international venue to host India games. The BCCI and PCB, after an initial impasse, are moving fast towards brokering a deal which might have both sides playing their tournament matches against each other outside Pakistan.
Although the UAE, Oman, Sri Lanka, and possibly England are likely candidates to host five matches, including at least two India-Pakistan encounters, the foreign venue is not yet decided.
According to the rules for the 2022 Asia Cup, the top two teams from each group proceed to the Super 4s and the top two teams then contest the final. There is still a chance that India and Pakistan will play three times.
Currently, a small working group has been established with the aim of coming up with a schedule and travel arrangement that will be acceptable to all participating nations as well as the broadcaster before a decision is made.
The weather is likely to play a crucial part in deciding the second destination outside of Pakistan, however there would be willingness among the Asian venues to host high-profile India-Pakistan games.
Temperatures in early September in the UAE normally hover around the 40-degree centigrade range, yet that has not prevented cricket from being played there: the 2021 IPL was played there late September, although Pakistan have played international matches in early September.
In Muscat, Oman’s capital, temperatures stayed lower and it did host the opening round of the 2021 T20 World Cup. Although the possibility of large crowds in a city like London is sure to be attractive, the option for England remains ambitious.
The proposal of playing part of the Asia Cup outside Pakistan was approved in principle as the most desirable by all members of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) when they met last weekend in Dubai, on the margins of the ICC’s quarterly board meetings.
Having failed to achieve a settlement mid-March in Bahrain at the ACC conference, members reassembled for two more rounds of informal discussions in Dubai.
The BCCI team included its secretary Jay Shah and the chairman of the IPL governing council, Arun Dhumal, while the PCB was represented by its chairman Najam Sethi. The PCB has the hosting rights for the 2023 edition of the Asia Cup.
Last October, the PCB was caught off surprise by Shah who declared that the 2023 Asia Cup would be staged in a “neutral” site.
The PCB, then led by Ramiz Raja, Sethis’ predecessor, quickly replied that if the championship was removed from the country, Pakistan would withdraw completely. Sethi maintained that attitude both in the Bahrain and Dubai rounds of meetings. Shah said he had made the comment in his role as the ACC president.
After it became clear that Pakistan could not visit India due to the strained political relations between the two neighboring countries, the BCCI noted that as hosts it had successfully hosted the 2018 Asia Cup at a neutral venue – in the UAE – during the Bahrain meeting.
Shah had informed the ACC that India wouldn’t be able to visit Pakistan for the Asia Cup as long as relations remained as they were. In Dubai, discussions started as he reiterated his stance.
The PCB followed suit and threatened to cancel the event entirely if Pakistan was forced to host the entire tournament. At one time, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) tried to carry hosting rights with the PCB, willing to host the entire tournament, but the PCB declined.
With a standoff all too obvious, a second possibility of splitting the tournament among two countries including Pakistan surfaced during the process of informal negotiations and was eventually presented and considered at the formal ACC conference.
On what is known, both PCB and BCCI were open and receptive to such a scheme, provided that the logistics and specifics were worked out to everyone’s satisfaction. The plan will also be taken to their individual governments before a formal calendar is set out.