The PCB is set to take the BCCI to the ICC’s dispute resolution panel, with the two boards having failed to resolve their long-standing issue of not fulfilling their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on bilateral tours. The matter was initially meant to be resolved through a “good faith negotiation”, but has dragged on with the boards not finding common ground. The PCB has also weighed up all legal options by hiring a UK-based law firm to take the matter to court if it cannot be settled in the corridors of the ICC.
“This process which is under the aegis of the ICC has now reached its final point,” the PCB chairman Najam Sethi said, sitting beside the ICC CEO David Richardson on the sidelines of the second T20I between Pakistan and the World XI. “We’ve had our last meetings with the Indians 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.”
According to the ICC’s terms of reference, both boards have to get into discussions to resolve a dispute amicably. There is a limited timeline to settle the matter and a failure to find a solution within two months would then result in the matter being referred to the ICC dispute resolution panel, which will form a three-member board to hear the case. The decision of the panel stands non-appealable and shall remain the final decision that will be binding on all parties.
The PCB and BCCI had signed an MoU in 2014 to play six bilateral series between 2015 and 2023. Four of those series were to be hosted by Pakistan and the six series contained up to 14 Tests, 30 ODIs and 12 T20Is. The cycle was scheduled to start with Pakistan hosting two Tests and five ODIs at a mutually acceptable venue, but the BCCI did not agree to playing the series.
The MoU, however, included the understanding that the series are subject to government approval and can be played at any mutually agreed neutral venue. India continue to play Pakistan in multi-team events but the Indian government is not keen, reportedly, to give the BCCI its go-ahead for bilateral series amid strained relations between the two countries.
Both India and Pakistan have not played a full series since the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The teams last played a full series in 2007, in India. Pakistan visited India for a limited-overs series in December 2012, which was seen as a stepping stone to reviving cricketing ties between the countries, but there have been no bilateral meetings since amid further border tensions.
The leadership of both boards, mediated by the ICC director Giles Clarke, made an attempt to arrange a series in December 2015 with Sri Lanka as a possible venue but it did not go ahead. The BCCI remained unresponsive to the PCB and the series was scrapped without official confirmation from India. Pakistan, meanwhile, are set to skip their tour of India next year, with the PCB firm that the cycle of bilateral tours has to begin with Pakistan as hosts.
Richardson said the ICC would play a facilitating role in trying to resolve the dispute.
“As you know when it comes to ICC events there is no question – if India are drawn against Pakistan, they will play,” he said. “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.”
Pakistan have been playing their home matches at neutral venues, mostly in the UAE, since the 2009 attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore. In 2015, Zimbabwe became the first international team to tour Pakistan since the attack. Now, players from seven major Test-playing nations, along with the ICC, have joined hands to form a World XI team for the cause of bringing international cricket back to Pakistan. India is the only major country apart from Zimbabwe to not feature in the World XI team brought together and coached by Andy Flower.
Richardson acknowledged the difficulties of including Indian players in the World XI.
“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.”