Asia Cup 2022 likely to be moved from Sri Lanka to UAE

The 2022 Asia Cup maybe shifted out of Sri Lanka, even though the nation has successfully hosted a full tour of Australia and is currently hosting a Test series against Pakistan without any major hassles. Sri Lanka Cricket will remain the official host of the Asia Cup, but the tournament, ESPNcricinfo has learned, is set to be played in Dubai and Sharjah between August 27 and September 11. The decision was taken at an Asian Cricket Council (ACC) meeting this week, which remains concerned by the acute shortage of fuel which has played a big part in grinding Sri Lanka down to a halt.

Up until last week, Sri Lanka Cricket was “very confident” of hosting the Asia Cup despite the country’s deepening economic and political crisis. With food supplies drying up, fuel supply being cut to private vehicles, and severe daily power outages, enraged protestors stormed into the residences of Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister demanding a change. The protests, though, did not impact the cricket with Australia spending most of June and a bit of July in the country, wrapping up a full tour which included two Tests, five ODIs and three T20Is. Now, Pakistan are in town to play a two-match Test series in Galle.

Hosting bilateral series, though, is very different from hosting a tournament like the Asia Cup, which this time will be played in the T20 format, and will feature as many as nine teams.

“Hosting two teams is not the same as hosting ten teams,” SLC chief executive officer Ashley de Silva told ESPNcricinfo on Sunday. “You have to provide ten buses with fuel for all of them. You have to give every team a luggage van with fuel, and transport for the managers. You also have to give the sponsors transport and ensure that they are getting the mileage that they want from their sponsorship. The fuel for the generators to run the floodlights will also have to be found.”

The ACC is set to announce the Asia Cup schedule on July 22 and it will likely have India and Pakistan facing each other twice in the league phase. In normal circumstances, several thousand fans from both countries would have been expected to fly to Sri Lanka, but de Silva feared the fuel shortage and the political unrest would be too much of a deterrent.

“There are also two India vs Pakistan matches, and there will be people who want to travel and watch those matches. People might not be happy to travel to Sri Lanka because of the situation.” de Silva said.

With the operational costs for the Asia Cup borne by ACC, SLC does not stand to lose any revenue, but de Silva did concede that the local economy in Sri Lanka stood to lose substantially with hotels and transport operators missing out.

The ACC had limited options regarding back-up venues considering June through September is monsoon season over most of the Indian subcontinent. In terms of the infrastructure and travel, the UAE has proved to be a successful venue, but late August and early September generally witness extreme temperatures of over 40°C with humidity also expected to be a factor. Accordingly, the matches could start early evening.

This will be the second time in the last five years that UAE will host the Asia Cup. In 2018, the tournament, played in the 50-overs format, was conducted in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah between September 15-28.

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