PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani believes that India’s continued refusal to play bilateral series with Pakistan when it routinely faces the arch-rivals in ICC events amounts to “hypocrisy”.
Pakistan and India last played a bilateral event in 2013 when the former toured the latter for a three-match ODI series. In the half a decade since, India has refused to honour its contractual obligations with the PCB by neither sending its team to Pakistan nor inviting them over.
During this time, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has used political tensions between the two neighbours as its excuse.
But Mani, in an interview with ESPNcricinfo, wondered where his Indian counterparts’ reasoning disappears when it comes to ICC tournaments such as the Champions Trophy or the two world cups.
“There is a lot of hypocrisy at the moment,” said the PCB chair whose board is locked in a legal battle with the BCCI. “India plays an ICC event against us but doesn’t play a bilateral series. That is something that we need to address.”
While Mani admitted that Pak-India matches have an unmatched financial side to it, he insisted that that is not the real reason why he wants the two rivals to renew their rivalry.
“Money isn’t the issue, it’s more about the game,” he said. “There are more viewers for an India-Pakistan match than any other match in the world. So, if the Indian government decides to deprive its own citizens of watching an India-Pakistan match then that is their choice.”
Mani linked the BCCI’s hardened stance on the matter with next year’s Indian elections, something he feels will not change in the immediate future. However, he is fairly confident that due to public demand the Indian government will find it very hard to keep on blocking Pak-India bilateral series.
“The main thing is that we play cricket against each other. When we play cricket, especially in our countries – when we go to India or when they come here – helps in increasing people-to-people contact. Indian fans come to Pakistan. Lakhs of fans have come to Pakistan from India and everyone goes back happy.
“There’s no better way to improve the relations between countries than having sporting contacts, cultural contacts. For me, that is far more important than any amount of money that comes into the game.
“Indian public obviously love to see India and Pakistan playing, and so does the Pakistan public. Rest of the work is of the politicians and frankly, once India is in the lead-up to its elections next year, so I don’t think there will be any softening in their attitude. But in the long term, the people want it and you can’t go against the will of the people forever.”
Mani is of the opinion that the bilateral inactivity is a loss for the sport but he has also made it clear that he is not desperate for the cricketing ties to be rekindled.
“I don’t intend to ask India to play us at all,” he said. “If they want to play they tell us, if they don’t want to play that’s fine. But we are not going to go after them, we are not going to beg them. It’s good for the game if India-Pakistan play each other but it will be on equal terms.”
The two countries currently await the verdict of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) dispute panel — a route of mediation Mani’s predecessor Najam Sethi had chosen. If it was up to Mani, however, he says he would not have gone the same way and instead opted to resolve the dispute with the BCCI without involving the global governing body.
“I would have preferred for there to be board-to-board discussions and board-to-government decisions,” he said. “I was ICC [president] in 2003 and India and Pakistan were not playing each other then.
“I went and met the Indian government and I took with me the people that were leading the Indian cricket board at that time – Mr. [Jagmohan] Dalmiya, Mr. [IS] Bindra, Mr. Rajsingh [Dungarpur] – and we went to the different ministries concerned with India-Pakistan cricket relations, and they spoke more in favour of resuming cricket between India and Pakistan than I did as a Pakistani.”