Zaka Ashraf, the likely new chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), has dismissed the proposed “hybrid model” for the upcoming Asia Cup. His rejection of the model, previously supported by his predecessor Najam Sethi, raises concerns about Pakistan’s participation in the tournament and could strain relations with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Asian Cricket Council (ACC).
In a press conference held in the Pakistan capital, Ashraf firmly stated his disagreement with the hybrid model for the Asia Cup.He emphasized that the ACC had initially decided on Pakistan as the host country and he favored hosting the tournament as planned. Ashraf’s opposition to the hybrid model could result in Pakistan’s exclusion from the five-nation tournament.
The ACC executive body had already approved the hybrid model, which entails splitting the tournament between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. However, a member of the ACC board confirmed that Ashraf’s objections would not change the accepted model, implying that Pakistan may be left out if they maintain their stance.
“The Asia Cup model has been accepted by ACC and there would be no change. Ashraf is free to say whatever he wants,” an ACC board member told PTI.
Ashraf’s nomination for the PCB chairman’s post was personally selected by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who holds the final authority in appointments. Therefore, his appointment is expected to proceed smoothly.
The hybrid model gained traction after India expressed its unavailability to travel to Pakistan due to prevailing geopolitical tensions. The model would involve four games being held in Pakistan, including the host country’s group league match against Nepal, while the remaining matches would take place in Sri Lanka.
The situation took an unexpected turn following Najam Sethi’s announcement on Twitter that he would not be a candidate for the PCB chairmanship, citing political instability as his reason for withdrawal.
Ashraf expressed his dissatisfaction with inconsequential matches taking place in Pakistan while the significant games are hosted elsewhere. He vowed to assess the available information and take prompt action to ensure the best interests of Pakistan cricket.
“All the main matches are happening outside (of Pakistan). (Teams like) Nepal and Bhutan are going to play in Pakistan – which is not fair for Pakistan. I do not know what the board has decided previously, I do not have the access to the information.
“I will check, whatever is doable in the shortest possible time, will do that for the betterment of Pakistan,” he said.
Furthermore, Ashraf revealed that the issue regarding Pakistan’s participation in the upcoming World Cup is yet to be resolved, indicating a potential delay in the release of the tournament schedule. The demands to play World Cup matches at a neutral venue are likely to face resistance from both the BCCI and the International Cricket Council (ICC).
“There are challenges lined up ahead for Pakistan, there are many pending issues, the Asia Cup is there, then the World Cup, the team’s preparations, a lot of issues. I do not want to speak against anyone because I have not (yet) taken over,” Ashraf said while not wanting to say anything about Sethi.
“Once I take over, will see what the scenario is. I always take media along, I do not hide anything. We have to work for the betterment of Pakistan, we have a clear conscious.” It is understood that Pakistan’s demands to play World Cup matches at a neutral venue will not be accepted by either the BCCI or the ICC at any cost, and now Ashraf’s tough stance on Asia Cup could spoil relations further.