The world of cricket administration has changed for Ehsan Mani, the new chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board. He returns to active cricket administration after a hiatus—he was the ICC president and the PCB's representative to the ICC board. Things have changed at the ICC—the governance has new faces and structure. The Asian bloc, where the PCB and the BCCI would vote together, is a thing of the past. The PCB itself has new faces. When Mani was the cricket boss, there was no Twenty 20 cricket, and now Pakistan has its own flourishing T20 league—the Pakistan Super League. Pakistan barely plays its home matches at home—it is based out of the UAE more often than not. Organising the last leg of PSL at home is an immense challenge in itself.
Another big change is that the BCCI he knew so well is a different one now. There is no duly elected board at present and courtesy the Justice Lodha reforms, the power equations, too, have altered. The BCCI now has a professional management in place. Most of Mani's friends in Indian cricket are no more or out of power—be it the late BCCI presidents Jagmohan Dalmiya and Raj Singh Dungarpur or former BCCI president I.S. Bindra.
To add to this, the PCB and the BCCI are at loggerheads in the ICC—Pakistan has challenged India's position that the MoU signed between the two boards for holding bilateral series over the next five years is not a valid document.
The only thing that is unchanged somewhat is the fact that there is no bilateral cricket between the traditional rivals. The BCCI has maintained that while it can play Pakistan in a multi-nation competition, the Union government does not give it permission to play Pakistan in a bilateral series either at home or at a neutral venue.
Speaking to THE WEEK after taking charge of the PCB, Mani called for discussions between the two warring cricket boards and even extended an olive branch. He said the two boards must start engaging with each other and talk across the table instead of fighting. Excerpts from a telephonic interview:
Your thoughts on the state of relations between the PCB and the BCCI.
I have traditionally got on very well with Indian cricket administrators. They have been personal friends. Now, of course, there are a lot of new people in the BCCI. I don't know them, they don't know me. We need to build up relations. I am of the firm view that we need to start people-to-people contact again. Really looking forward to do so. Cricket and politics have to be kept apart.
PCB has been told by the BCCI that the present government in India is not giving permission to play against Pakistan bilaterally, but whenever I have gone to India in the past as ICC president and used to be taken to meet the foreign ministers then by Jagmohan Dalmiya or Raj Singh Dungarpur, those gentlemen always pushed for cricket relations to be re-established. That used to make my life a lot easier as ICC president. We had bilateral series between the countries between 2004 and 2006. We need to work together.
But Pakistan is in dispute with the BCCI over the MOU, what is your stand on that?
It all depends on the intentions of the party. If intention is to play cricket, it is not an issue. I believe that call is with the BCCI.
But BCCI believes it is the PCB that has taken the matter of MoU to the ICC's dispute redressal committee, sending the BCCI a notice. There is very little it can do in that case.
I need to understand the issue more. The situation is what it is. We have to look ahead. There is no harm in talking across the table.
Are you looking forward to meeting BCCI officials during the Asia Cup in the UAE?
It is a very very sad thing that the Asia Cup is happening outside the country. I firmly believe India coming to Pakistan for a tour is no risk at all. I hope we are able to move on (from the present state of affairs).