For over a decade Pakistani cricket fans have been desperately waiting to see a mega tournament at their home grounds. Charged crowds, nail-biting finishes, adrenaline rushes and the sheer excitement of watching a live match on your own soil seems alien to us. The rare memories of cricket celebrations in Pakistan remain limited to PSL, where the nation finally got a chance to rejoice together. Unfortunately, even PSL is not entirely conducted in Pakistan, making the fans crave for good matches even more. To our delight, times are beginning to change and the wait for all the cricket crazy fans shall not last very long because, after almost a decade, Pakistan has finally got the right to host one of the biggest tournament of the season, Asia Cup 2020. Yes, it does seem unbelievable but it is true!
The decision was made in Bangladesh on Thursday by the head of the Asian Cricket Council.
“The next Asia Cup will be hosted by Pakistan, and the hosting right belongs to them. Where they will host the tournament, it’s up to them,” ACC president Nazmul Hassan Papon was quoted as saying by The Dhaka Tribune.
The tournament will be played in the T20 format and will consist of 6 Asian teams including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and two associate teams. The tournament is slated to start in September but the final venue is still undecided. It is speculated that the Asian Cricket Council security team will arrive in Pakistan for the security clearance before the tournament after which the final venue will be announced.
Immediately after the announcement, a ray of hope sparked amongst the Pakistani fans and everybody welcomed the news with an open heart. However, arch-rival India gave a very conventional reaction; they showed extreme discontent over the news, BCCI clearly refused to play the 2020 Asia Cup in Pakistan, demanding a change in the venue for the next edition of the tournament. The Times of India reported that the BCCI has said that there is no question of playing in Pakistan and asked PCB to make an alternative arrangement.
This is not the first time India has refused to play in Pakistan. In past, India has several times committed to playing a bilateral series with Pakistan but later very conveniently took a step back. It is worth mentioning that the last Asia Cup was initially scheduled to be played in India but after Pakistan’s opposition –due to financial dispute – BCCI opted to play in UAE. Despite India’s resistance, Pakistan is committed to hosting the tournament with their full might. PCB’s Chairman, Ehsan Mani expressed gratitude to ACC for finalizing this crucial decision and believes this will open more doorways for cricket in Pakistan.
He said, “We have a long programme to develop Asian cricket. We want to start from u-16 and u-19 to the Asia Cup.
“It’s not about cricket only but also about developing our umpires, match referees. Our main focus is to strengthen cricket of Asia which is the strongest area for world cricket.
The return of International Cricket
International cricket was suspended for several years in Pakistan since 2009, after the gruesome bus attack on the Srilankan team almost ten years ago. The restoration of international cricket has been an arduous journey from then on but Ex-Chairman PCB, Najam Sethi played a vital role in this regard and made considerable efforts to make the return of cricket in Pakistan a reality. Pakistan consequently hosted Zimbabwe, WestIndies, Srilanka, and World XI. Despite these small successes, no mega event has yet been conducted in Pakistan. Uncertain security and political situations make the task of hosting a major tournament even tougher but PCB’s relentless efforts need to be acknowledged in this regard. In the past 5 years, it is due to these efforts that the ambiance has finally begun to change and Pakistan is now in a much more commanding position.
Very recently Pakistan successfully hosted the group B matches for Emerging Asia Cup in Karachi. Group B teams included Pakistan, Bangladesh, HongKong, and UAE, proving that Pakistan is fully capable of hosting international matches.
Pakistan’s performance in Asia Cup
Although it’s so great to hear that Pakistan will finally get a chance to play a major tournament at their home ground but let’s not forget our past record. Unfortunately, Pakistan has not been at its best when it comes to Asia Cup. We have just managed to win the tournament twice out of the fourteen times it has been held. Pakistan once won in 2000 and then finally managed to lift the trophy after 12 years, in 2012. In 1986 and 2014 Pakistan ended up being the runner-up in the tournament. India, on the contrary, has been the king of the championship, winning the tournament 7 times whereas Srilanka grabbed the title 5 times. The tables could really turn for Pakistan this time as playing at their home ground could give them an added advantage, the support from home crowd can not only boost the team’s confidence but could also help them to gel in once again as a unit.
Asia Cup in September will be followed by the World T20 which is to be held in Australia, therefore, it will be an opportunity for Pakistan to sharpen their skills and be fully prepared for the challenge ahead. A win in the Asia Cup could greatly boost the team and this might just be what is required.
The road ahead
With less than a year left, the excitement is already sky high and after the recent announcement, the frenzy has grown even more. The task ahead is a tough one for Sarfaraz XI but it could also be a game changer. Some questions still remain unanswered, we are yet to see how ACC will convince India and if the former does not agree then what route will Pakistan adopt? But all the worries aside, we are pretty sure that this will be the most anticipated tournament of the year, after all, what better spectacle to see than Kohli and Sarfaraz playing on the same ground amongst thousands of roaring Pakistani fans!
For more updates and news about the Cricket world, keep visiting Cricket Howzat.
Picture Credits: Sports Keeda