SL visit could prove crucial to hosting Asia Cup, World T20
Sri Lanka's tour of Bangladesh could be crucial to the host's prospects of holding the Asia Cup and the ICC World Twenty20. Sri Lanka are scheduled to arrive on January 24 for a month-long tour, which is the first of three major international cricket events in Bangladesh, stacked one after another.
Four days after the Sri Lanka tour, the Asia Cup is scheduled to begin on February 24. The Asian Cricket Council, the tournament's organiser, has already worked out a Plan B in case the political violence in the country doesn't abate in time for the tournament, with its single-venue prerequisite making it fairly simple to find alternative host countries.
The ACC's CEO, Syed Ashraful Huq, however, believes that a green signal from Sri Lanka Cricket will ease the pressure on Bangladesh hosting the regional one-day tournament. But he warned that the other two events in Bangladesh are not bilateral series and the consent of one cricket board wouldn't do.
He said that the four-nation tournament will not be postponed in any case, and has to be held between February 24 and March 7 because of a packed international calendar.
"The Sri Lanka tour will be crucial," Huq told ESPNcricinfo. "It will be a big boost to the situation here if they complete the tour. But one must remember that the subsequent events are multi-team events. At the moment, the participating nations are at a monitoring stage. They will depend on agencies in their individual countries, like the home or foreign office.
"Participation will depend on each board, whether they are comfortable with the security situation. They will consult their respective home or foreign offices to determine whether the security situation is congenial or not. As the host, the Bangladesh government and the BCB will have to give guarantees. The ACC will rely on the hosts' security agencies and those of the participating nations."
Bangladesh got the right to host the 2014 Asia Cup after India declined to do so, and with Pakistan not having hosted international cricket events for nearly five years, the obvious choices for alternate venues are Sri Lanka and the UAE.
Huq confirmed that till this point, none of the participating nations have threatened a pull-out. "The Asia Cup has to be held during that time slot," he said. "There is no scope for us to postpone the tournament. The ACC will discuss an alternate venue if the situation doesn't improve in Bangladesh, but this is the case with every international tournament. As organisers, we have to be prepared for any eventuality.
"Any one of the countries can be an alternate venue. Last time we held the tournament at the Shere Bangla National Stadium, so usually we hold the Asia Cup in one or two venues. The ACC's executive body will decide on the change of venue. What I can tell you is that nobody wants the tournament to get out of Bangladesh. None of the teams have told me yet that they don't want to go to Bangladesh."
The BCB has sought help from the two major political leaders of the country - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and leader of the opposition Khaleda Zia - to assure the rest of the world that cricket is safe and secure in Bangladesh.
Huq said that he faced a similar situation as a BCB official in 1988, and had in fact visited the same leaders, who were supportive at the time. He believes the same will happen this time, and it will help allay the concerns.
"The guarantees from the political leaders will certainly help us," Huq said. "When Bangladesh hosted the 1988 Asia Cup, there was unrest in the country, against the then president [Hussain Mohammad] Ershad.
"I, alongside BCB general secretary Tanvir Mazhar Tanna, went to Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, who told us that the tournament can be held peacefully without any disruption. I am sure, for the sake of the country, the same would happen this time."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here