Could Pakistan boycott World Cup in India? ‘A very real possibility’

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Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Najam Sethi says there remains a “very real possibility” his country boycotts the 50-over World Cup in India later this year if they lose the rights to staging the Asia Cup in September.

Pakistan are due to host the Asia Cup for the first time since 2008, but India, citing safety concerns, have ruled out travelling to the country and have since been offered a ‘hybrid’ deal by the PCB whereby they play their matches in the United Arab Emirates.

While the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has yet to deliver a formal response to that offer, Sethi says India want the entire tournament moved out of Pakistan, commenting: “They want all the matches in a neutral venue”.

The Cricket World Cup will take place in India across October and November.

Sethi said in a Zoom interview: “BCCI should take a good, rational decision so that we don’t have any problems going forward.

Usama Mir, Pakistan (Associated Press)

Image: Pakistan are due to host the Asia Cup in September but India have ruled out travelling amid security concerns

“India should not be looking at a situation where we end up boycotting the Asia Cup and also the World Cup, and then India ends up boycotting the Champions Trophy [in Pakistan in 2025]. That will be a huge mess.”

“That’s a very real possibility, of course,” added Sethi when asked whether Pakistan could opt out of the 50-over World Cup in India.

Should India agree to the hybrid model for the Asia Cup, Sethi said Pakistan would expect reciprocal terms at the World Cup.

“We also have security concerns for our team in India. So let Pakistan play its matches in Dhaka or Mirpur, or UAE or in Sri Lanka. This is the solution going forward, until such time that India agrees to play Pakistan, in Pakistan and outside Pakistan, bilaterally.”

India and Pakistan only currently play each other in global events, with Sethi suggesting the BCCI’s “stubbornness” is preventing more regular matches between the sides.

Arshdeep Singh and Virat Kohli celebrate the dismissal of Mohammad Rizwan

Image: India beat Pakistan at the MCG during last year’s T20 World Cup in Australia

A number of national teams, including England and Australia, have recently returned to play in Pakistan after the country was starved of international action following the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009.

“Every major country has toured Pakistan in the last few years. You name them, they’ve all been there. They all appreciated the security arrangements. That’s not a problem anymore,” added Sethi.

“The India-Pakistan game is the biggest game in town. It’s bigger than Australia vs England, it’s bigger than India vs Australia. How can we jeopardise that by a stubbornness?

“The Indian bridge team has been to Pakistan, the Indian kabaddi team has been to Pakistan, the Indian baseball team has been to Pakistan. Why can’t the Indian cricket team come to Pakistan?”

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