After the India-Pak group stage clash was rained out, a reserve day was added to their Super Four match, making the Men in Blue play for three straight days. (Photo | Express)
After the India-Pak group stage clash was rained out, a reserve day was added to their Super Four match, making the Men in Blue play for three straight days. (Photo | Express)

Asia Cup draw appears to be fixed, says former Sri Lanka cricketer Senanayake

The Asian Cricket Council and Pakistan Cricket Board, on whose insistence the former had to make a provision for reserve day, had already faced a lot of criticism for the decision.

COLOMBO: Former Sri Lanka cricketer Charith Senanayake was the chairman of the technical committee for the 2022 Asia Cup held in Dubai and Sharjah. So he was shocked beyond belief when he learnt about the introduction of a reserve day for the India-Pakistan Super Four clash at the eleventh hour a few days ago.

The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), on whose insistence the former had to make a provision for reserve day, had already faced a lot of criticism for the decision. Charith, who played three Tests and seven ODIs for Sri Lanka, strongly believes that the decision may boomerang on Pakistan if their Super Four match against Sri Lanka on Thursday is washed out.

"Before the tournament, playing conditions are given and all the teams are made aware of them. Thereafter rules cannot be changed unless all the teams agree with it. Otherwise, it's unfair," the 60-year-old former cricketer told this daily.

"Hypothetically, if the Pakistan-Sri Lanka game is washed out, both teams will get one point each. In that scenario, on the basis of the better run rate, Sri Lanka will go through and Pakistan will be out. That's because you don't have an additional day or a reserve day. That will be very unfortunate. So the decision which apparently PCB made could boomerang on it."

Charith says the PCB has brought the tournament under scanner. "If that is the case (PCB wanting a reserve day), then there is a big question mark about the authenticity of the tournament. It becomes very questionable. It appears games (draws) were fixed because everybody was trying for an India-Pakistan final. You cannot have different rules for different boards."

He was also amazed how every tournament featuring India and Pakistan always has at least a clash between the two arch-rivals. "People tend to ask questions about how it happens all the time. To begin with, I actually don't know how the groups were drawn. Whether it was actually done or done physically. But it looks very funny. The ACC makes money only through this it seems. Everyone is trying to make money."

Not associated with Sri Lanka Cricket anymore, Senanayake now runs a business and is a member of the National Technical Committee constituted by the sports ministry in the country. Speaking on other boards remaining silent, he said, "Money talks at the end of the day. Because of such an act, the whole tournament becomes questionable. It also raises questions as to how clean this Asia Cup is. Six countries in two groups and India-Pakistan in one group. It is fixed in such a way that both teams play at least twice and if they reach the final, three times. All boards played it down because if they objected, India would refrain from visiting their countries and the boards cannot be run because India wields such power."

Charith was once involved in a verbal spat with legendary spinner Muttiah Muralitharan in 2016 when he was manager of the national team. He had then alleged Muralitharan, who was a spin bowling consultant visiting Australia, for possibly influencing the pitch curator to prepare a turning pitch to suit spinners from Down Under. He, however, affirmed that he never had any personal issues with Muralitharan and it was all a professional disagreement. "As a professional, you may have a disagreement with your colleagues. When I was manager there was an incident which involved Murali. We had a discussion and it was picked up by the media and highly exaggerated.

We spoke to each other. There was nothing personal, it was all professional. All I can say is that probably I can have many disagreements with my support staff but that doesn't mean I am angry with them or anything like that because that's my nature. I question, I am not scared to ask questions, perhaps that is the reason I have been left out. I will question because I have nothing to hide. I am very straightforward."

He also held India's favourites for both the Asia Cup and ODI World Cup. "Suryakumar Yadav, Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur are on the bench. When you have such a bench strength, imagine the other 11 guys playing on the field. All of them are matchwinners. Their batters, bowling both pace attack and spinners. The Indian team is a real deal. Playing in their own backyard, I will be surprised if India doesn't win the World Cup."

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