With the 2023 Asia Cup schedule announced, the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Chief & BCCI secretary Jay Shah has reckoned that the continental tournament holds a special place in the hearts of cricket fans in the continent.
The Asia Cup 2023, a six-nation tournament, will be played in the 50-over format ahead of the Men’s ODI World Cup, scheduled to be held in India in October.
India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Nepal, the winners of ACC Men’s Premier Cup, will compete in a total of 13 ODI matches in the tournament.
Intrestingly, arch-rivals India and Pakistan have been clubbed together alongside Nepal, the winners of ACC Men’s Premier Cup while defending champions Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are the sides featuring in Group B.
Notably, India had last won the tournament when it was held in 50-over format in the UAE in 2018.
“The Asia Cup holds a special place in the hearts of cricket enthusiasts across the continent. It goes beyond being just a tournament; it symbolises the rich tapestry of cultures, traditions and shared passion for the game that binds our diverse nations together. This prestigious event not only showcases the cricketing prowess of the players but also fosters a sense of unity and brotherhood among Asian countries. Let the tournament be a celebration of cricket’s beauty, a display of sporting excellence and a reflection of the unity that binds our nations together. Together, let us witness cricketing magic unfold, as each match becomes a chapter in a larger narrative of friendship and sportsmanship,” said Shah in a statement issued by the ACC and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
India’s campaign in the tournament will begin against Pakistan in Kandy on September 2 and if both the sides advance to the Super Fours stage, they will meet again in Colombo on September 10.
“On behalf of the Asian Cricket Council and cricket lovers across Asia, I extend my gratitude to the fellow board members, teams, organisers, sponsors and fans who make this event possible. Your unwavering support is the driving force behind the success of the Asia Cup. May the Men’s ODI Asia Cup 2023 be an unforgettable journey, filled with moments of triumph, joy, and togetherness. Let us come together to witness the best of Asian cricket,” added Shah.
Four venues will be used for the 13-match event. In Pakistan, Multan Cricket Stadium will host the tournament opener between Pakistan and Nepal on August 30 before the action shifts to Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore for the remaining three matches — two group stage and one Super Fours game.
“For Pakistan, it will be the homecoming of the ACC Asia Cup after 15 long years. Our fans have waited for this for a long time and, as such, we look forward to making it bigger and better so that the fans and participants can start counting down days leading up to the ICC Champions Trophy, which Pakistan will host in February 2025,” said Zaka Ashraf, Chair of the PCB Management Committee.
“I am extremely happy for the Multan fans who will be the host of the ACC Asia Cup 2023 opener and will see their national side in action in a multi-team tournament for the first time since 1994. It remains one of my top priorities to ensure competitive cricket returns to historic venues across the country,” he added.
Sri Lanka will use Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Kandy for the three first round matches, including India’s Group A matches against Pakistan and Nepal, while R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium (RPICS), Colombo will host the five Super Fours stage fixtures and the final of the tournament on September 17, with a reserve day for the title clash scheduled for September 18.
Barring Nepal, the Asia Cup will serve as vital preparation for the rest of five teams for the ODI World Cup, scheduled to be held in India from October 5 to November 19.
The 2023 edition of Asia Cup will be the 16th edition of the tournament.
“I want to congratulate Nepal on qualifying for the Asia Cup and look forward to welcoming them along with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have previously played in Pakistan, it will be the first of many times for Nepal and Afghanistan, and I remain confident they will take away memories that will stay with them for a very long time.
From the Pakistan team’s perspective, it will be an excellent opportunity for them to play in high-profile pressure matches and also aim to reclaim the title they last won in 2012. They have all the potential and capability to do that and a strong performance in the Asia Cup will give them the encouragement and confidence for subsequent series and events,” added Ashraf.
Irrespective of where teams finish in the first round, Pakistan will remain A1 and India will be A2, while Sri Lanka will be B1 and Bangladesh B2. In case Nepal and Afghanistan qualify for the Super fours stage of the competition, they will take the slot of the team knocked out from their respective groups.