One of the top players of 2023 in white ball cricket, Sri Lankan superstar Chamari Athapaththu has set her eyes on the big prize at the ICC Women's T20 World Cup later this year.
More than on-field rivalry between teams, the ongoing edition of the Asia Cup 2023 is grabbing more headlines off the cricket field. No, we aren’t discussing the weather conditions here.
Infact, it is the war of words that’s getting more eyeballs, with former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Najam Sethi, who began the proceedings by targeting Asian Cricket Council chief and BCCI secretary Jay Shah for opting to play the Asia Cup in a hybrid mode, and preferring Sri Lanka over UAE.
The decision has somewhat backfired with rain affecting most of the games held in the island nation, and the impending threat over the conduct of Super Four stage matches.
“Only Mr Shah can explain why these options were rejected and why Sri Lanka was accommodated against all reason, logic, and rationality. The choice of venues in Sri Lanka was also problematic as we have seen,” Sethi posted on social media.
In his response, Shah had issued a statement on Tuesday stating that the decision was taken, considering the heat wave in the UAE at this time of the year, and it could possibly lead to players’ fatigue ahead of the all-important ICC World Cup, starting October 5 in India.
In his rebuttal, Shah also brought up Pakistan’s economic situation and frequent changes in the PCB top brass, which according to him resulted in “some back-and-forth negotiations”.
“All the full members, media rights holder, and in-stadia rights holders were initially hesitant to commit to hosting the entire tournament in Pakistan. This reluctance stemmed from concerns related to the security and economic situation prevailing in the country,” he said.
“It’s important to note that the leadership of the PCB underwent several changes, and this resulted in some back-and-forth negotiations, particularly regarding crucial aspects such as tax exemption and insurance for matches,” Shah added.
Pakistan had at one stage threatened to not just pull out of the upcoming ICC World Cup but also boycott the Asia Cup should the tournament take place anywhere outside their boundaries. Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif even formed a committee that included Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto to decide if their team could go to India for the World Cup.
Amid the off-field spat, the Super 4 stage of the Asia Cup got underway in Lahore on Wednesday and is expected to resume in Colombo on Sunday, with high chances of rain affecting the contests. The condition of the pitches at the R Premadasa Stadium is also a matter of concern given that the Lanka Premier League was played till August 20, and the rains have affected preparing those tracks.
All the teams in the Super Fours Stage will be hoping for full games as the tournament is being touted as a dress rehearsal for the ICC World Cup. More than anyone else, it is India’s head coach Rahul Dravid, who will be eager to assess the fitness of KL Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah, returning from injury lay-offs.
With hardly four weeks to go for the World Cup, Rohit Sharma and Dravid will hope to figure out the best Playing XI and in such a scenario, rain-curtailed matches will not serve the purpose for Team India, looking to repeat their 2011 heroics when they begin their World Cup 2023 campaign against Australia in Chennai on October 8.