Pakistan to take part in Asia Cup
The Asian Cricket Council, on Thursday, confirmed Pakistan's participation in this year's Asia Cup in Bangladesh. However, the regional cricket body has said that the participation of all teams is subject to their individual government's decision. Pakistan will now join Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan in the tournament which will take place between February 25 and March 8.
According to the ACC chief executive Ashraful Huq, Pakistan are "provisionally" scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on February 22, train for the next two days, and then play the tournament opener in Fatullah against Sri Lanka on February 25. Their security representative will arrive in Dhaka on Saturday, as part of the ICC's security meeting on Monday.
"Obviously every country's participation is subject to their government's order, more so in the subcontinent," Huq said. "Pakistan's security officer will arrive here on January 18 to take part in the ICC's security meeting which will, I am sure, give a clean report as there is no problem at the moment. The two officials of Sri Lanka Cricket are very close to me and they, too, I hope will give a clean report. The Pakistan team is provisionally booked to arrive on February 22 as they want to practice on February 23 and 24."
Even in the event of Pakistan pulling out, Huq said the tournament will go ahead as planned. He did however confirm that he had received assurance from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the political party that is opposing the government for not holding elections under a caretaker government.
"The Asia Cup will go on even if any team decides not to participate in it," Huq said. "Earlier in 1986 in Sri Lanka, India didn't participate while in 1991, Pakistan didn't participate in India.
"I have been informed by BNP's authorised spokesperson that they will support the event. But I can't disclose a name. Those who believe that the Asia Cup will be shifted elsewhere are living in a fool's paradise."
Political violence has devastated Bangladesh in the last three months, but it is hoped that there won't be much trouble during the time of the Asia Cup. On Wednesday, BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia did not announce any blockades or strikes for the month. This bodes well for the tournament as normal life has already resumed in many parts of the country, including Dhaka, in the last five days.
The issue with Pakistan's security concern is however related more to a diplomatic conflict, which is not entirely connected to the political impasse of the last three months. However, the BCB has guaranteed to the PCB that they will provide extra security personnel during Pakistan's stay in Bangladesh.
The other major talking point was the use of two venues - Fatullah and Mirpur - at two ends of Dhaka. The first five matches of the tournament will be held in Fatullah, to the south of Dhaka, and the rest, including the final on March 8, will be held at the Shere Bangla National Stadium.
The hitch in the schedule is the lack of reserve days. Though it is a predominantly dry season, things could go haywire if rain interrupts, as there is only one rest day ahead of the final.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here