Neutral venue not confirmed but the UAE, Oman, Sri Lanka and even England are potential contenders for Asia Cup 2023.
The Asia Cup 2023 will most likely be held in Pakistan, with another abroad venue hosting Indian games. ESPNcricinfo has learned that, following an initial impasse, the BCCI and the PCB are working quickly to reach an agreement allowing both sides to play tournament matches against each other outside of Pakistan. The overseas destination is yet to be determined. Still, the UAE, Oman, Sri Lanka, and perhaps England are possible candidates to host five matches, including at least two India-Pakistan clashes.
In the six-nation Asia Cup 2023, slated for the first half of September this year and in a 50-over format, India and Pakistan have been grouped with a qualifier. The other group includes Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. 13 matches, including the final, will be played over 13 days. According to the 2022 Asia Cup format, the top two teams from each group advance to the Super 4, and the top two teams compete in the final. There is still the potential for India and Pakistan to play three times.
As of now, a small working group has been formed with the task of developing a timetable and travel plan acceptable to all participating countries and the broadcaster before making a final decision. The weather will likely play a significant factor in deciding the second venue outside of Pakistan. However, Asian countries will be eager to host high-profile India-Pakistan games.
Temperatures in the UAE in early September typically hover around 40 degrees Celsius, but that hasn’t stopped cricket from being played there: the 2021 IPL was played there in late September, but Pakistan has played international matches in early September. Temperatures in Muscat, Oman’s capital, stayed lower, and it did host the opening round of the 2021 T20 World Cup. The choice for England remains ambitious, but the potential of large crowds in a city like London is sure to be appealing.
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When the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) met last weekend in Dubai on the margins of the ICC’s quarterly board meetings, all members agreed in principle that holding part of the Asia Cup 2023 outside Pakistan was the most favourable alternative. After failing to reach an agreement at the ACC meeting in Bahrain in mid-March, members gathered in Dubai for two more informal talks. The PCB, which owns the hosting rights for the Asia Cup 2023, was represented by chair Najam Sethi. The BCCI team included secretary Jay Shah and IPL governing council chairman Arun Dhumal.
The PCB was taken off guard last October when Shah announced that the 2023 Asia Cup would be staged in a “neutral” site. The PCB, then led by Ramiz Raja, Sethi’s predecessor, instantly responded that Pakistan would withdraw from the competition entirely if the team were removed from the nation. Sethi maintained this position in both the Bahrain and Dubai rounds of talks.
Shah stated that he made the statement as president of the ACC. During the Bahrain meeting, the BCCI emphasised that as hosts, it had successfully held the 2018 Asia Cup at a neutral venue – the UAE – after it became evident that Pakistan could not travel to India due to strained political ties between the two neighbouring countries.
With relations as they are, Shah informed the ACC that India could not travel to Pakistan for the Asia Cup 2023. Once negotiations in Dubai began, he repeated his position. The PCB did the same, stating that they would withdraw from the event if the entire tournament were moved out of Pakistan. At one time, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) offered to trade hosting rights with the PCB, willing to host the entire tournament, but the PCB declined.
With a deadlock looming, a second suggestion of partitioning the tournament between two countries, including Pakistan, emerged during informal conversations and was eventually presented and considered at the formal ACC conference. Both PCB and BCCI, it is claimed, were amenable to such a scheme, subject to technicalities and logistics that suited everyone. Before a formal schedule is established, the plan will be presented to their respective governments for Asia Cup 2023.
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