Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi has clarified that the board is considering all possible avenues against the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for not honouring the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two boards to play bilateral series. PCB is also looking at taking BCCI to ICC’s dispute resolution panel after not being able to reach a reasonable common ground. The Pakistan board has also expressed intent to hire a UK-based law firm if the matter is not resolved at the ICC level.
“This process which is under the aegis of the ICC has now reached its final point,” said Sethi while sat beside ICC CEO David Richardson on the sidelines of the second T20I between Pakistan and World XI in Lahore. “We’ve had our last meetings with India and the last one was under the chairmanship of [former BCCI president and current ICC chairman Shashank] Manohar. That process is over and the next stage will begin. We are in active consultation with our lawyers and I and others are recording our statements with our lawyers.
“Within a month or two months at most, we will go back to the ICC – we have in fact written a letter already asking for the nomination of a three-member board that will look at all these issues. We have nominated one member already. This process is active and we intend to pursue it to its logical outcome.”
As per ICC’s terms of reference, both boards have to get into discussions to resolve the dispute amicably. However, should there not be a solution within two months, the matter would come under the purview of the ICC dispute resolution panel. The panel will then form a three-member board to hear the case and pass the judgement. The decision will be binding and cannot be challenged by either boards.
As per the MoU between the two boards, PCB and BCCI were to play six bilateral series between 2015 and 2023 with four of them to be played in Pakistan comprising 14 Tests, 30 ODIs and 12 T20Is. The cycle, after being signed in 2014, was scheduled to begin with Pakistan hosting India for two Tests and five ODIs at a mutual venue. But the contract came with a big caveat of all series being subject to government approval with the Indian government reportedly not keen on giving BCCI the go-ahead due to strained relations after the Mumbai attacks in 2008. The two were playing full series up until that time.
In 2012, Pakistan visited India for a limited-overs series to give a glimmer of hope for revival of ties between the arch rivals but that hasn’t materialised and there have been little signs of change amid further border tensions.
“As you know when it comes to ICC events there is no question – if India are drawn against Pakistan, they will play,” said ICC’s Richardson. “On the question of bilateral series between the countries, all bilateral series are agreed upon a bilateral basis. I understand that at the moment diplomatic relations between the two are not as rosy as they could be. For now anyway it seems the BCCI, without the positive affirmation from their government, don’t believe it is the time to play against Pakistan.
“I know the PCB has been talking to the BCCI for a number of years to arrange tours with India, in Pakistan or neutral venues. The PCB have filed a complaint under the ICC dispute resolution process which is a mechanism we have to deal with any disputes between member countries. That process is a work in progress. At the moment ICC’s role in this is to facilitate in any dispute – we don’t like our members fighting with each other, being in dispute. We have a process to deal with it and we need to let it take its course.”
Cricket has slowly returned to Pakistan after the attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009. Zimbabwe toured the country in 2015 and currently World XI side comprising players from seven Test playing nations but India and Zimbabwe are participating in the three T20I series.
“You cannot ignore the political situation that is between India and Pakistan at the moment and the difficulties that might exist,” he said. “India is about to tour Australia and this tour was sandwiched between a very busy FTP [Future Tours Programme]. One of the reasons why many South Africans are in this team is because they haven’t been playing recently. In India’s case they genuinely are a very busy country. From a political point of view, obviously, if an Indian player would have been a part of this tour you can imagine the level of focus he would have attracted and the pressures it would have brought from the security point of view. I think Andy Flower and the PCB have taken a practical approach,” Richardson added.