Zaka Ashraf
Zaka Ashraf mugshot from an archive.

New PCB chairman-elect Zaka Ashraf has reportedly disapproved of his predecessor Najam Sethi’s “hybrid model” for the 2018 Asia Cup.

Zaka Ashraf, the frontrunner to replace Najam Sethi as chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), has publicly disavowed the “hybrid model” proposed by Sethi for the forthcoming Asia Cup, which will be hosted jointly by Pakistan and Sri Lanka in September. The first thing I want to say is that I have always been opposed to the hybrid concept proposed for the Asia Cup. At a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday, Ashraf stated, “Since the board of the Asian Cricket Council has already decided that it should be held in Pakistan, then we should host it.”

It is likely that the BCCI would also play hardball in response to Ashraf’s comments, and if they renege on the agreement reached by the ACC, there will be no room for negotiation about Pakistan’s participation in the World Cup.

The Asia Cup could be played with only four teams instead of five if Ashraf does not change his position on the hybrid concept, which has been approved by the ACC executive body.

The ACC has approved the Asia Cup format, so it won’t be changing anytime soon. A member of the ACC board told PTI that Ashraf could say whatever he wanted.

The PCB’s patron-in-chief and the person with the final say in appointments are Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who has nominated both Ashraf and another candidate for the position of chairman. The appointment of Ashraf is now merely a formality.

After India made it clear that it will not travel to Pakistan owing to the current geopolitical circumstances, the ACC, led by BCCI boss Jay Shah, accepted the hybrid format.

Lahore will play host to four matches: Pakistan will play Nepal in a group league match, and Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan will all play games there as well.

Since Sethi’s resignation announcement on Twitter, however, a lot has changed.

Please don’t use me as a wedge issue between Asif Zardari and Shehbaz Sharif. PCB suffers when there is so much unpredictability and instability. Given the current state of affairs, I will not be seeking the position of PCB Chairman. Sethi had tweeted good luck to everyone involved.

Ashraf, a banker by trade, has served as chairman of the PCB before.

During an interview with the media, Ashraf voiced his displeasure at the prospect of hosting meaningless games in their country.

All the big games are happening somewhere else (not in Pakistan). There will be matches between (teams like) Nepal and Bhutan in Pakistan, which is unfair for Pakistan. I have no access to the board’s past decisions, so I cannot comment on them.

“I will verify, whatever is doable in the shortest possible time, will that for the betterment of Pakistan,” he promised.

Ashraf said that the release of the schedule may be further delayed because the World Cup problem has not been resolved.

The Asia Cup is coming up, and after that the World Cup, so there are a lot of things that need to be taken care of in terms of getting the team ready. The reason I don’t want to say anything bad about Sethi is because I haven’t taken over,” Ashraf explained.

When I take charge, we’ll assess the situation. When I travel, I never leave home without some form of documentation. We have a clean conscience and must contribute to Pakistan’s development. Ashraf’s hard attitude on the Asia Cup might further strain relations between the two countries, as it is well known that the BCCI and the ICC will not give in to Pakistan’s requests to play World Cup matches at a neutral venue.

In 2012, when the last bilateral series between India and Pakistan took place, Ashraf was head of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

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