By Sabeh ul Hassan, Sports Analyst & Commentator, Tribune International (Australia)
Tribune International (Australia), 3 September 2023: The Asia Cup, one of the most eagerly anticipated tournaments in the cricketing calendar, is once again making headlines. However, this time, it’s not just for the on-field action but for the weather’s intervention and the subsequent controversy surrounding the choice of venue.
To set the stage, the blockbuster match between arch-rivals India and Pakistan at Pallekele International Stadium was curtailed due to persistent rain. While the rain’s role in dampening the
spirits of millions of fans is evident, it’s also giving rise to questions about why the Asia Cup is being held in Sri Lanka during a season notorious for its downpours.
Shaheen Shah Afridi, Pakistan’s pace spearhead, made the headlines with his exceptional bowling performance against India. But even his dazzling 4-35 couldn’t prevent the rain from stealing the show. The resulting match interruption meant shared points, making the road to the Super Four stage for both teams that much more challenging.
However, the washout didn’t only lead to shared points but also shared frustrations. Former Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, Najam Sethi, didn’t mince words as he criticized the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) for its decision to host the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka. According to Sethi, during his tenure, he had urged the ACC to consider the UAE as a venue to avoid such rain interruptions. But the ACC, citing the hot weather in Dubai as experienced during some previous tournaments, sidelined the proposal. Such reasoning has now come under fire, especially with rain playing spoilsport in a high-stakes match.
It wasn’t just Sethi who voiced his dissatisfaction. The iconic Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag also chimed in with his signature wit, making a playful jibe about the choice of the monsoon season for such a prestigious event.
Digging deeper into the controversy, the initial plan was for Pakistan to be the sole host for the 2023 Asia Cup. However, political tensions between India and Pakistan meant that India wouldn’t play in Pakistan. The solution? A hybrid model where both Pakistan and a second country would co-host. The UAE was a frontrunner in this race, but Sri Lanka eventually secured the spot.
Now, as another potential rain threat looms over India’s next game against Nepal, questions about the venue choice have intensified. The ACC, realizing the gravity of the situation, is reportedly considering alternate venues for the Super Four stage. Though Colombo was initially marked to host five of the six Super Four games, the city’s recent heavy rainfall is pushing Dambulla and Pallekele into contention as possible replacements.
Interestingly, Dambulla, a dry region, was Sri Lanka cricket’s initial suggestion for hosting the majority of the matches. However, reluctance from broadcasters and participating teams to travel to both Dambulla and Pallekele led to Colombo’s selection. And with this being the monsoon season, both Colombo and Pallekele have been under rain’s wrath, as evidenced by the washed-out India-Pakistan game.
The ACC is in a dilemma. While they hoped for an improvement in Colombo’s weather, even the first match at the venue isn’t scheduled until September 9. There’s a palpable sense of urgency to make a decision, especially considering the significance of the matches in the tournament’s later stages. But, as the clock ticks and the clouds gather, one thing is clear: the choice of venue for the Asia Cup 2023 will be a decision remembered for years to come, and not just for cricket.