The last two days have not been great for Pakistan cricket. After the team failed to achieve a modest fourth-innings target in Abu Dhabi, going down by four runs to New Zealand, insult was added to injury when the ICC Dispute Resolution Committee rejected its Rs 447 crore claim against BCCI for refusing to play six bilateral series between 2015 and 2023. “The PCB’s claim is dismissed. Costs are reserved. The judgement is binding and non-appealable.”
With these three short sentences, the panel chaired by Michael J Beloff and comprising Annabelle Bennett and Jan Paulsson poured cold water on PCB’s contention that the Indian Cricket Board had reneged on a contract to visit for bilateral series against Pakistan. The panel agreed to the BCCI viewpoint that the agreement alluded to in a letter by then BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel to then PCB chairman Najam Sethi was nothing more than a “moral obligation” and could not be termed a binding memorandum of understanding (MoU).
It also accepted the Indian Board’s contention that bilateral cricketing relations between the neighbours were always dependent on governmental approval, which was not forthcoming in this case. And in comments that alluded to India’s clout in the world game, the committee said that “The BCCI may have had the wish (to play against Pakistan), but it was the PCB which had the need.”
“In terms of any Indian tour to Pakistan, it was the PCB which was the suppliant. It was the host country which benefitted from the revenues in respect of such a tour. Bankrupts cannot be choosers, and while the PCB was certainly not bankrupt, at the very least sacrifice of such a tour would, as Mr (Subhan) Ahmad (PCB COO) put it, ‘definitely make a dent in our financial reserves’,” said the panel.
“The prospect of bilateral tours with India as tourist was, in the PCB’s own words, ‘the most valuable prize in world cricket’ but ex hypothesi for other ICC Members, not the BCCI itself. By contrast there was no necessity for the BCCI, the dominant force in world cricket in the modern era, to play away against Pakistan.”
The claim was prompted by the loss in TV revenue suffered by the PCB. To further rub salt into PCB’s wounds, BCCI said it would seek counter compensation for the cost of arbitration. “We will make a presentation to the panel and demand entire cost of compensation to be borne by the PCB for the arbitration where their claims have been dismissed,” Committee of Administrators chief Vinod Rai outlined the BCCI’s course of action. Forced to eat humble pie, the PCB has no option but to lie low and lick its wounds for the moment.
“The PCB notes with regret the decision of the Disputes Resolution Committee. PCB will determine its future course of action in this regard after detailed deliberations and consultations with its stakeholders,” their statement said.
After hearing deliberations on October 1-3, including arguments from former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, the ICC dispute panel agreed with the BCCI that the document signed by Patel was nothing more than a “proposal letter”. “It follows inexorably that the PCB’s claim must fail. If there was no obligation on the BCCI to engage in the tours in either 2014 or 2015, its omission to do so was no breach and gave rise to no damages claim,” the verdict said. It also quoted then PCB Chairman Shaharyar Khan’s letter to Pakistan Prime Minister in 2015.
“The PCB Chairman’s letter to the Pakistan Prime Minister dated 20 August 2015 stated: ‘The Indian government has seemingly withheld its permission for India to play Pakistan stating that the cricket series would be inappropriate in the current atmosphere… Accordingly, there is a possibility that India would not agree to honour its commitment to play its series with Pakistan’.”