Kolkata: The UAE is gradually emerging as an alternative venue to stage the upcoming edition of Asia Cup cricket in August-September, officially scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka. The ongoing economic crisis in the island nation which has sparked nationwide protests, has prompted the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) to keep a Plan B ready, though they are adopting a wait-and-watch policy before shifting it from Sri Lanka altogether.
The ACC, in their Annual General Meeting in Colombo on March 19, had assigned the event to Sri Lanka as per their turn from August 27 to September 11 with the Qualifiers scheduled from August 20. The continental body, headed by the BCCI secretary Jay Shah, also finalised that it would be held in T20 format in order to maintain a synergy with T20 World Cup in Australia in November-December and allow the teams some quality preparation.
However, the last month has seen a severe escalation of the turmoil - forcing the ACC bigwigs to review the situation when they converged for the Board meeting of International Cricket Council (ICC) in Dubai earlier this month. Sources within the ACC confirmed that they have set Cricket Sri Lanka a time-frame to confirm whether they are in a position to host the multi-nation event while the UAE has been sounded out as an alternative venue.
The UAE, which has turned to be a cricketing hub for both international and franchise cricket in recent times and hosted the T20 World Cup seamlessly last year, had staged the last edition of the Asia Cup in 2018 (with BCCI as hosts) which saw a Rohit Sharma-led India emerging as champions. Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), which has hosted past editions of the Asia Cup, have also submitted a proposal expressing their willingness to the stage the tournament but it is believed that possibility of rains in such a tight window may tilt the scales in favour of the UAE.
Sri Lanka is battling rising inflation and a severe shortage of essential commodities and fuel due to decreasing foreign currency reserves. Protests have erupted against the government with several legends of the game, including Arjuna Ranatunga and Sanath Jayasuriya joining the public rallies. ‘‘The protests of the people are quite justified but one hopes that the situation will stabilise in the next couple of months,’’ remarked Lasith Malinga, a former Lankan star, during a recent interview with Gulf News.
The ACC officials are in constant touch with Sri Lankan board members, who are still hopeful of hosting the event. “As of now, it would be really tough to say whether they can host the Asia cup. What I know is they are hopeful and very positive about this issue. There is still time in hand to take call but at the same time as per protocol, they have been given a deadline to decide on the same,” informed sources said.
India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are the regular participants of the event while a qualifier will join the main round.