The decision of the ICC to give Pakistan the hosting rights for the Champions Trophy in 2025 is going to create problems, given the current situation with India.
The latest ICC cycle of major tournaments was announced on Tuesday. Unlike the previous cycle of 2015 to 2023, the majority of the big events have been taken away from the ‘Big Three’ of India, England, and Australia. Consider this, out of the eight tournaments beginning from 2024, Australia and England are hosting just one. India, considering they are the economic superpower of the game, is hosting all three major ICC tournaments. The Champions Trophy is the only tournament that India is hosting on its own in 2029. They will co-host the World T20 and World Cup with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh respectively.
There will be many nations hosting ICC events in the eight-year cycle which is commendable. The ICC has given its motto of ‘Going Global’ in a big way. Nations like Namibia, Scotland, and Ireland will get to host ICC events as well. But, in one situation, the ICC has slipped up in a big way.
The major development in the entire ICC cycle was giving Pakistan the 2025 ICC Champions Trophy. Pakistan and India are the only two countries in the whole cycle that are not co-hosting a major ICC tournament. The development is great in one way. For the last six years, Pakistan has ended its international isolation following the 2009 terror attacks on the Sri Lankan team.
Are you ready for the best-ever decade of men’s white-ball cricket?— ICC (@ICC) November 16, 2021
Eight new tournaments announced 🔥
14 different host nations confirmed 🌏
Champions Trophy officially returns 🙌https://t.co/OkZ2vOpvVQ pic.twitter.com/uwQHnna92F
From 2015 onwards, Pakistan has hosted Zimbabwe, West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa, ICC World XI for Tests, ODIs, and Twenty20 Internationals. In the coming years, especially in 2022, they will host Australia, New Zealand, and England. Australia will be touring Pakistan after 24 years while England will be coming after 17 years. There was plenty of criticism when England and New Zealand pulled out of their bilateral tours before the ICC World T20. Now, the tours by major nations are an indication that Pakistan is now safe to tour. It is no wonder that the ICC gave Pakistan the chance to host an ICC event after 29 years.
But, this represents a major banana skin in one aspect. Pakistan’s tensions with India, the economic superpower of the cricketing world, pose a major issue. Ever since the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, India has just played Pakistan in only one series till 2021. India and Pakistan have clashed in ICC events from 2011 to 2021 but in 2025, the situation might be different.
The situation in India when it comes to diplomacy and politics when it comes to Pakistan is at an all-time low. There are elections in India in 2024, with the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) projected to come back to power. A return to power by the BJP will see heightened anti-Pakistan sentiment among the nationalist elements in the country. Pakistan’s continued interference in Kashmir has not helped their case any better.
With the political climate remaining tense, will the Indian cricket team take the risk and go to Pakistan for the ICC Champions Trophy? Will the Indian government give the Indian cricket team permission to go to Pakistan amidst heightened security risks for the cricket team?
In the past, when it comes to major ICC events, there has never been any kind of major pull-out. No major nation has boycotted any ICC event, with the exception of South Africa who was isolated. In past ICC events, there has been a major incident that has increased Indo-Pak tensions. Prior to the 2017 Champions Trophy, the terror attack on an Army camp in Uri soured relations. Before the 2019 ICC World Cup, the Pulwama terror attack on the CRPF convoy in February resulted in a fever-pitch demand for a boycott. But, in both cases, cricket carried on as if it was in a bubble.
In the recent past, cricket has tended to operate with the motto, “Keep politics away from the playing field.” This can be dismissed as a pseudo-liberal narrative, for it was assertive politics that saw cricket break down the apartheid barriers in South Africa. But, in the times of coronavirus bio-bubbles, the political bubble is a bit difficult to ignore.
This working group for the schedule was led by former New Zealand fast bowler Martin Snedden. He is chairman of New Zealand Cricket and its representative on the ICC Board. But, the presence of Sourav Ganguly, who knows the existing situation, compounds a lot of problems. He is aware of the situation, yet it was allowed. Perhaps, there is a faint hope that politics will not clash with an ICC tournament. Fainter still, there might be peace between India and Pakistan in 2025.
If there is peace, then it is great. But, the ICC has once again confounded the situation by giving the entire ICC tournament to Pakistan. There will be immense diplomatic, political, and security issues leading up to the event from 2024. The stakes have been made very high.