Ehsan Mani, the new PCB chairman, wants to remain open to talks with the BCCI, even as both boards are set to face off soon in an ICC hearing in Dubai. A dispute-resolution panel set up by the ICC will hear Pakistan’s compensation claim of US$ 70 million against India for refusing to honour their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that guaranteed six bilateral series between 2015 and 2013. The tribunal will hear the case during October 1-3.
“This process has already gone beyond resolving it amicably,” Mani said. “It’s in the final stages of reaching a conclusion. Both sides have to find a common solution for the future and I’ll explore every possibility for the sake of the game. Had I been involved when the dispute happened, every effort would have been made to sort it bilaterally. Unfortunately, we are where we are. We have to still progress, but my doors are always open.”
Mani has had meetings in Dubai with Rahul Johri, the BCCI chief executive, and Amitabh Chaudhary, the acting secretary, on the sidelines of the Asian Cricket Council meeting last Thursday. Without going into specifics of the meeting he described as productive, Mani insisted there was still some bridge-building to do.
“Cricket boards have to work towards playing cricket, they shouldn’t get into politics, that’s what we’re talking with our Indian counterparts,” he said. “There’s some bridge-building to do, hopefully we will be able to make some ground because the relations haven’t been great.
“I have already had a very constructive discussion with my colleagues from India who are here. We’ll have a lot of common ground going forward. We all understand whatever has happened in the past has happened; we have to move forward. At the end of the day, the game is bigger than any one person; it’s bigger than the politicians. It reaches out across global spectrum.”
India and Pakistan last played a full bilateral series in 2007 in India. Since then, there has just been one bilateral tour that Pakistan made to India for two T20Is and three ODIs in December 2012. However, the teams have continued to play each other at multi-national events like the World Cup, the World T20, the Champions Trophy and the Asia Cup.
In November 2016, India women had forfeited six points for failing to play a scheduled three-match series part of the ICC Women’s Championship due to the political stalemate between the two countries. This consequently closed out doors on India’s automatic qualification for the 2017 World Cup.
“When an India-Pakistan match is played, over a 100 billion people watch the game from all over the world. No one cares about the politics,” Mani said. “The main thing is to get the cricket going and this is a main thing in that direction. I am very hopeful the board will work towards it. Am not saying we will get results on day one but we will work towards the common goal. The boards’ endeavour should be for cricket, not anything else.”
Political tensions between the two countries took another twist on Sunday when India cancelled a scheduled meeting of the countries’ foreign ministers slated to be held in New York later this month. Mani was diplomatic when asked if this had the potential to spill over onto the PCB-BCCI talks, but insisted efforts had to be made from both sides to ensure politics and sport don’t mix.
“When politicians talk, we shouldn’t get it into it. We should focus on matters concerning the cricket boards. When the Kargil incident happened [in 1999], even then we didn’t stop dialogues. We knew cricket was tough, but every effort was made to renew bilateral ties. I strongly believe politics and politicians shouldn’t influence cricket.”