The schedule for the 2023 Asia Cup was finally announced on Wednesday, June 19th. The tournament, set to be played from August 30th to September 17th, will feature six Asian teams competing against each other in the 50-overs format across four venues in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The opening match will witness Pakistan locking horns with Nepal on their home ground in Multan. Lahore is the only other venue in Pakistan to host the matches.
The teams have been divided into two groups – India, Pakistan, and Nepal in Group A and Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh in Group B. The tournament will commence with the group stage matches from August 30th to September 5th, followed by the Super 4s from September 6th to 15th. The final will be played on September 17th in Colombo.
The Asia Cup, which will be played in the ODI format this time, serves as a crucial preparatory tournament for all the participating teams except Nepal, ahead of the Cricket World Cup from October to November this year.
Arch-rivals India and Pakistan are set to clash on September 2nd in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Uncertainties loomed over the most-anticipated match of the tournament, especially after BCCI secretary Jay Shah declared in October last year that the Asia Cup 2023 will be held at a neutral venue despite the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) being the official hosts, implying that the Indian team will not be traveling to Pakistan. Shah, who is also the President of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), created an uproar with his statement as the PCB claimed that the comments were made unilaterally and could negatively impact the Babar Azam-led team’s visit to India in the following months for the ICC World Cup. Eventually, a hybrid model was proposed for the Asia Cup, bringing Sri Lanka as a co-host alongside Pakistan. Under this model, only four of the 13 ODI matches will be hosted by Pakistan and the remaining nine will be played in Sri Lanka.
Long-standing political tensions have cast a shadow of uncertainty over cricketing relations between the two nations for a considerable period. In recent times, India and Pakistan have only played against each other in international tournaments, with bilateral series having come to a halt after Pakistan’s 2012-13 tour of India. The last time Pakistan toured India was in 2016 when India hosted the T20 World Cup. Former cricketers such as Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram have often called for the resumption of bilateral cricket between India and Pakistan, but the unstable diplomatic situation refuses to allow for normalcy.
However, cricket enthusiasts can hold on to hope as they eagerly anticipate a showdown between the two giants in the Asia Cup and the ICC Cricket World Cup later this year.
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