Cricket: Asia Cup organisers rule out switch from Bangladesh

DHAKA (AFP) - Organisers of cricket's Asia Cup insisted that the tournament would go ahead in troubled Bangladesh next month, even if one of the teams pulled out on safety grounds, as they unveiled the schedule on Thursday.

Defending champions Pakistan will take on Sri Lanka in the opening match of the 50-overs tournament on Feb 25, the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) announced at a press conference in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

Bangladesh has been rocked by some of the deadliest political violence in its history in recent weeks, prompting speculation that the World Twenty20, due to be held in the country from March 16 to April 6, may be moved elsewhere.

ACC chief executive Ashraful Huq told reporters in Dhaka that the teams' participation was subject to security clearance by their respective boards, but added that he was confident all five nations would take part.

"Even if one team does not come, the tournament will go ahead," he said. "But I am sure they will all be here."

The International Cricket Council is due to hold a security assessment meeting in Dhaka on Jan 20 to determine if the World Twenty20 can be hosted there.

The five-nation event, which also features India, debutants Afghanistan and the hosts, will be played in Dhaka and its southern suburban town of Fatullah.

Each team will play each other once in the league, with the final scheduled at Dhaka's Sher-e-Bangla stadium on March 8.

The first five league matches will be held at the 18,000-capacity Fatullah Cricket Stadium, which has hosted one Test in April 2006 and five one-day internationals.

A Sri Lankan cricket official told AFP on Wednesday that its team's bilateral tour to Bangladesh starting on Jan 27 would go ahead as scheduled.

"We are very positive about playing in Bangladesh," Sri Lanka Cricket secretary Nishantha Ranatunga said. "We look forward to playing there."

The Bangladesh Cricket Board's interim chief executive Nizamuddin Chowdhury reiterated his country's commitment to deliver a successful Asia Cup.

"Cricket unites Bangladesh like nothing else," he said. "The event comes at a very busy juncture for us. The World Twenty20 is only two months away, while Sri Lanka will be arriving in just over a week's time.

"This is a huge challenge for the BCB from an organisational perspective but I am confident that our dedicated workforce will be up to it."

Pakistan won the previous Asia Cup, also played in Dhaka in March 2012, by defeating the hosts by two runs in an exciting final.

Asia Cup schedule:

Feb 25: Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Fatullah

Feb 26: Bangladesh v India, Fatullah

Feb 27: Afghanistan v Pakistan, Fatullah

Feb 28: India v Sri Lanka, Fatullah

March 1: Bangladesh v Afghanistan, Fatullah

March 2: India v Pakistan, Dhaka

March 3: Afghanistan v Sri Lanka, Dhaka

March 4: Bangladesh v Pakistan, Dhaka

March 5: Afghanistan v India, Dhaka

March 6: Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, Dhaka

March 8: Final, Dhaka