With Asia Cup's Super Four stage well and truly underway in Colombo, the talk over the last week or so has been only about the rains lashing the Island nation and particularly the capital city.
War of words between Najam Sethi, the former chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and BCCI secretary and Asian Cricket Council (ACC) chief Jay Shah has been on in full flow.
Sethi had claimed that his proposals to host the matches fully in Pakistan or partially in Pakistan and UAE were rejected at the behest of the BCCI.
"I pleaded for three approvals in various meetings with Jay Shah and ACC colleagues: Play all matches in Pakistan as international cricket had fully returned to Pakistan.
"When this was shot down I proposed that we play five matches in Pakistan and eight in the UAE. This also they rejected and hinted at giving the Asia Cup hosting rights to Sri Lanka if we didn’t budge."
The scheduling mess in Asia Cup
"Finally, after we said we might not participate, they scheduled four matches in Pakistan and posted the rest in Sri Lanka. We repeatedly pointed out that the rains forecast in SL would adversely impact match results and diminish crowds at stadiums. We also argued that gate receipts from UAE stadiums would be many times more than those in SL given economic considerations. When Mr Shah didn’t agree, a high level delegation of the Emirates Cricket Board flew to Mumbai to persuade BCCI to play the Asia Cup in UAE as in the past when two IPLs and one ACC ODI event was played there in the same weather conditions. BCCI refused to accept their request. Only Mr Shah can explain why these options were rejected and why Sri Lanka was accommodated against all reason, logic, and rationality. The choice of venues in Sri Lanka was also problematic as we have seen."
Now, post Sethi's rant against the BCCI and its secretary specifically, Shah has countered with his own contention regarding the constraints of holding matches in the UAE.
“The Asia Cup 2022 edition was played in the UAE in the T20 format. It’s important to emphasize that the dynamics of a T20 tournament cannot be directly compared to those of a 100-over One-day format. In this context, ACC members received feedback from their respective high-performance teams, expressing concerns about playing One-day matches in the UAE in the month of September. Such a schedule could have potentially led to player fatigue and an increased risk of injuries, particularly right before the all-important ICC Cricket World Cup,”
Dubai's scorching heat would've been unbearable for players
To assess whether Shah has solid grounds in what he is saying, all that one needs to do is look at the average temperatures in Dubai in the month of September.
In the first three weeks, day-time temperatures are in the 41-42 degrees range which makes it extremely difficult for players to get through the game without cramps or fatigue or other fitness-related issues.
Playing T20 matches in the evening in manageable weather conditions for a little over three hours is very different from teams scrapping for eight plus hours in the intense Dubai heat in 50-over matches.
With teams gearing up for the all-important ICC ODI World Cup in India in October-November, the risk of injuries is something most players and team managements would look to avoid at any cost.
Why ACC chose Sri Lanka
In this context, the ACC's decision to go with Sri Lanka does have some merit, although rains of this intensity was something nobody foresaw while planning the schedule.
I feel the cramped international schedule has also contributed to the situation that the ACC finds itself in. With hardly any breathing space in an already crowded calendar, fitting in the Asia Cup in a World Cup year was always going to be challenging.
Add to that the not-so-great relations between the BCCI and PCB, the fracas that has transpired is no surprise.
The way forward is to plan schedules with the weather conditions in mind and taking all boards into confidence and assuage their concerns.