Ehsan Mani bats for ‘bridge-building’ with BCCI as ICC tribunal hearing looms

PCB chairman Ehsan Mani has talked up the need to keep the dialogue with BCCI over bilateral cricket going, and to keep it separate from all the political tensions between the two countries. India haven’t played Pakistan in a bilateral series since 2012, with two teams meeting in just the multi-team events.
Even the ongoing Asia Cup was moved from India to UAE, in order to pave the way for India-Pakistan matches. The Indian women’s team too bore the brunt of the fractured political relations between the two countries, as the ICC awarded Pakistan six points for India’s failure to play the away bilateral series that was part of the ICC Women’s Championship.
“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. 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 Board’s endeavour should be for cricket, not anything else.”
“Cricket boards have to work towards playing cricket, [we] don’t want to get into politics, that’s what we’re talking with our Indian counterparts. There’s some bridge-building to do, hopefully we will be able to make some ground because the relations haven’t been great.”
“What politicians talk, we shouldn’t get into that. Our concentration should be on keeping the dialogue between the two boards going. I was in a similar situation when the Kargil incident [in 1999] happened. I was involved with the ICC and we never left our dialogue. We understood that in those circumstances, playing cricket was tough. But our full effort was to quickly bring the relationship between the two countries on a track where there can be cricket between the two. If there’s politics in cricket, then cricket will be used as a tool for politics, which is wrong,” he added.
Mani revealed that he has had discussions with BCCI CEO Rahul Johri and acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary in Dubai during the ongoing Asia Cup. “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.”
The passionate plea for commaraderie between the boards ironically comes a week away from a face-off between them at an ICC dispute-resolution panel in Dubai. The panel will hear PCB’s claim for a compensation of USD 70 million from BCCI for their failure to honour the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which they signed in 2014. According to this MoU, BCCI had agreed to play six bilateral series against Pakistan between 2015 and 2023, but have already failed to play two away tours.
PCB under its previous chairman Najam Sethi were quite vocal about getting BCCI to pay compensation and eventually took matters to higher authorities at the ICC, but Mani lamented how far that dispute has now reached, and further reiterated the need for bilateral cricket.
“There’s a process that has started, and it’s in its last stages, whatever has to happen has happened. If I would’ve been involved when the dispute happened, every effort would have been made to sort it bilaterally. Unfortunatrely, we are where we are.”
“It is extremely important for India and Pakistan to play bilaterally for the health of cricket. But (it should be) on equal grounds, on equal footing. The most important factor is both the boards keep talking to each other. If you remember, in 2002, India and Pakistan were not playing with each other.
“When I went to India in 2003, the Indian board administrators like Raj Singh Dungarpur, [Jagmohan] Dalmiya saab, [IS] Bindra saab took me to the ministers to convince them to let cricket resume. I had already sought the permission of President Musharraf for speaking with the Indian politicians.
“But more than me, it was heartening to see my Indian board colleagues were pushing more for the resumption of bilateral cricket. We have to rebuild such relationships. Cricket boards should work in tandem for the progress of the game rather than fighting amongst themselves.”
The ICC tribunal will be held in Dubai between October 1 and 3.