A political standoff has placed the upcoming Asia Cup in turmoil, opening up the possibility of Pakistan boycotting the 50-over World Cup due to be held in India later this year.

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India and Pakistan have had to cease playing cricket due to political irritation, the longest being a 17-year gap for much of the the 1960s and the 1970s.

The two sides met for ODIs and T20Is in 2012/13 in India, the last occasion that either country has hosted the other for a bilateral series, as the political storm surrounding these nations has overwhelmed any chance of an amicable tour since.

What is happening?

Troubles between India and Pakistan came to a head in October 2022, when after Pakistan were awarded the 2023 edition of the Asia Cup,

Jay Shah, Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) secretary and Asian Cricket Council (ACC) president, announced that India would not travel to Pakistan, and added that the tournament would be held at a neutral venue.

Shah’s statement caused an uproar at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Najam Sethi, PCB chair, described Shah’s comments as “unilateral” on Twitter. In a separate statement, the PCB described it as, “without any thoughts towards their long-term consequences and implications”.

The PCB then threatened to boycott the upcoming 50-over World Cup, due to be held in India in October. Former PCB chair Ramiz Raja told ESPNcricinfo: “We won the rights fair and square. If India doesn’t come, they won’t come. If the Asia Cup gets taken away from Pakistan, maybe we’re the ones that pull out.”

Meanwhile, Sethi told Sky Sports: “BCCI should take a good rational decision so that we don’t have any problems going forward. I’m not worried about the Asia Cup, it’s the World Cup, and India should not be looking at a situation where we end up boycotting the Asia Cup and also the World Cup and then India ends up boycotting the Champions Trophy. There’ll be a huge mess.”

What have the governing bodies done to fix this?

PCB initially suggested a hybrid arrangement, as per which India would play their games in a neutral venue, most likely in the UAE, while the other games will be played in Pakistan. Sethi suggested the hybrid model for the World Cup as well: “Our stance is that everything should be on a reciprocal basis. In the old times, yes, there were security issues in Pakistan. But now there are no issues, so what is India’s excuse for not playing in Pakistan?”

ESPNcricinfo reported that the PCB and the ACC met in Dubai, over the course of which the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) expressed reservations over the Asia Cup being held in two separate countries on logistical grounds as well as the searing September heat in the UAE. The logistical reservations were also shared by the tournament broadcasters.

A PCB official quickly retorted by stating that they had received an email from both the BCB and SLC suggesting that they were happy to play in Pakistan. They also reminded them the 2022 Asia Cup was held in the UAE between August 27 and September 11, roughly the same time when the 2023 edition would be played.

It has been suggested that the whole tournament be moved to the UAE, with Pakistan maintaining their rights and host benefits. This solution had been used in last year’s edition when the tournament was moved from Sri Lanka due to its own political and economic turmoil.

According to Geo.tv, the SLC and the BCB have since withdrawn their concerns over the hybrid model and have been backing Pakistan’s proposal of holding the tournament partially in another country yet to be determined.

Where are we now?

At this point, the destination of the tournament is still up in the air. SLC has now offered to host the tournament in Dambulla and Pallekele .

The BCCI keep refusing to travel to Pakistan flt out, but the BCB and the SLC are now more flexible with the location. They have accepted the hybrid model, and the PCB have suggested that they will boycott the Asia Cup altogether if their hybrid solution is rejected by the ACC and the tournament is moved out of Pakistan.

A spokesperson for the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) has confirmed Afghanistan’s neutrality, their ultimate goal being to “ensure a fair and competitive tournament that benefits the growth and development of cricket in the region.”

A decision is set to be made by the end of this month. As it currently stands, the Asia Cup is in turmoil. The verdict is also likely to determine India’s participation in the 2025 Champions Trophy in Pakistan as well as and Pakistan’s involvement in the 2023 World Cup in India.

Pakistan are currently the second-ranked ODI side in the world, while India are third. Their participation in major tournaments as two of the best teams in the world is essential to the continued growth of cricket around the globe.