Euro 2020 Special
 

Pakistan Threatens World Cup Withdrawal Over India’s Asia Cup Stance

In a depressingly familiar scenario, Pakistan have responded to India’s declaration that they will not travel to their neighbours for next year’s Asia Cup by indicating their intention to boycott the 50 over version of the World Cup in protest.

Yet again politics is getting in the way of sport between these two countries.

And, with the pair due to meet in the T20I World Cup this weekend, it adds even more spice to what promises to be a feisty affair.

 

India’s declaration

Pakistan were originally due to hold the Asia Cup this year, but it was switched to the UAE, (where Sri Lanka won it) with the understanding that it would revert back to the East Asian country in 2023.

However, after the latest meeting of the BCCI, it was made clear that India have no intention of travelling to Pakistan if the tournament were held there, and it would have to be staged at  a neutral venue.

Jay Shah, who is BCCI secretary, but also ACC (Asian Cricket Council) President said “we (India) cannot go there (to Pakistan), they cannot come here.” Given that the ACC has yet to discuss the matter, it is not clear in which capacity Shah was talking, but his message was unambiguous.

 

Pakistan’s response

Although Pakistan have not officially responded, indications are that they are prepared to pull out of the 50 over a side World Cup which India are due to host beginning next October.  They are aware that both the ICC and ACC could face commercial losses if Pakistan does not play India in these regional and global competitions, and it also undermines their validity from a sporting perspective.

Other events in question

Another event that is now in question is the 2025 Champions Trophy which Pakistan is due to host in 2025. That, too, is likely to be impacted if the current hard-line stance is maintained by both countries.

The last time they toured each other

India last visited Pakistan in 2008 for the Asia Cup, whilst Pakistan’s last trip to India was for the 2016 T20 World Cup, but, even then, they needed approval from their own government to do so, something that was only granted at the last minute.

 

A headache for the ICC

Whilst the ICC has yet to formally comment, this is a headache that they can do without. The Asia Cup is under the aegis of the ACC, so they have no formal right to interfere with its staging, but the threat of one of the major cricketing nations to boycott the World Cup does directly affect them, as does the implied danger to the Champions Trophy.

They cannot insist that Pakistan turn up in India next year, but, if they are serious about their threat to boycott it, then it has a direct impact on the qualification process that is already in process. What happens to the points that teams have already earned from matches against Pakistan, for example? Will these become null and void?

And, is there any point in countries fulfilling their ODI fixtures with Pakistan ahead of the World Cup if they know there is no tangible reward attached to them?

They will also be aware that a major tournament without one of the major countries being involved will be devalued, in the same way that Olympics medals won during the era of US and Soviet Union boycotts did not count as much.

 

A solution

One solution would be to insist on neutral venues for all these tournaments, stripping both India and Pakistan of hosting rights. That, though, would not only be highly contentious but would probably see one or both nations pull out in protest.

The ICC is also aware that they are heavily dependent on the money generated by India, the richest cricketing nation in the world, and they would not want to upset them.

At the same time, they are supposed to be neutral and above regional politics, and, allowing one nation to decide where a global tournament should not be staged is setting a dangerous precedent.

Perhaps they could ask India to guarantee they will travel for the Champions Trophy if Pakistan agree to come for the World Cup, but would that be binding, or might it become hostage to future events?

At the moment they appear to be between a rock and a hard place.

 

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