PCB to meet board chiefs over WC dispute
The PCB will sit down with the ICC and World Cup hosts India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, in Dubai on June 3 to try and reach an out-of-court settlement over the 2011 World Cup dispute that saw Pakistan's share of matches taken away over security concerns. Since the decision in April - taken after the terrorist attacks on Sri Lanka in Lahore in March - Pakistan and the ICC have been locked in a legal wrangle; the PCB filed a notice over the decision, calling it discriminatory and illegal and arguing that the correct procedures had not been followed. The meeting is the first indication of any kind that the impasse may be resolved outside of a courtroom.
The meeting will be attended by ICC president David Morgan, Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, and top officials from the BCCI, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB). Sharad Pawar, the former BCCI president and Morgan's chosen successor, will also be part of the meeting.
It appears to be the result of Butt's recent trips to Sri Lanka and India, where he met DS de Silva, the SLC chairman, and Pawar to drum up support and discuss Pakistan's case. After the spate of legal action - which included filing a case in a Lahore civil court against the removal of the World Cup secretariat from Lahore to Mumbai and also referring the entire matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sports - relations between the PCB and the ICC, as well as other members, had worsened considerably. Butt's visits were seen also as diplomatic missions to improve communications between PCB and the remaining hosts of the world cup.
"I had very detailed discussions with Mr Pawar and the meeting went well," Butt told Cricinfo. "We decided some solution has to be worked out and we will have a discussion in Dubai on June 3. David Morgan, Mr Pawar and the heads of SLC and BCB will all be there as we discuss the situation and work towards a solution."
Since the legal notice, the ICC has vigorously refuted Pakistan's claims point by point but also clarified, crucially, that Pakistan's hosting rights to the tournament had not been taken away. For an embattled board, it was a victory of sorts, leaving the option open apparently for a neutral venue to come into play.
"We sent them a legal notice and they replied," Butt said. "And they acknowledged that our hosting rights cannot be taken from us. These are contractual commitments that are strong even if we agree that there might be different interpretations there."
As the PCB has moved forward with its two-pronged strategy of legal action on one hand and back-channel communication on the other, little has emerged about what Pakistan actually wants from their actions. No country is willing to visit Pakistan after the terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team in March in Lahore, a feeling made clear at the ICC meeting in April when the decision was originally made. Speculation suggested Pakistan wanted either financial compensation or a move to 'host' its share of matches at a neutral venue.
Butt confirmed that the neutral venues option was in the pipeline but would come up only after the correct process had been followed. This will be top of the agenda at the Dubai meeting. "First our hosting rights cannot be taken away just like that, that we have to clear. There are four full-member countries who are hosts and all signed this one agreement with the IDI. There are terms and conditions in there.
"We will, as per the agreement we have all signed, submit a satisfactory security plan to the ICC for games in Pakistan. Should that plan not be satisfactory then we will put forward a proposal for a neutral venue, be that in the Middle East or Kuala Lumpur. That process and procedure is part of the hosting agreement that we all signed."
Whether or not the co-hosts are keen on a neutral venue, in particular Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is not clear yet. The ICC has not entirely ruled out the option. "The ICC has never received any proposals from the PCB on alternate venues so we cannot speculate on how the ICC Board would deal with any requests," an ICC spokesperson told Cricinfo recently.
According to sources within the BCCI, however, the idea may not be so popular. Butt discussed with Pawar the financial importance of Pakistan hosting matches in Dubai as a cash-strapped board can ill-afford to lose 14 World Cup matches, the sources told Cricinfo. The host for each World Cup match receives US$750,000 from the ICC for the "extra work", 100% of gate receipts and 100% of money raised through hospitality.
Pawar, however, conveyed to Butt during their lunchtime meeting on Sunday that the BCCI was not keen on Dubai as a neutral option, and reiterated the Indian and ICC stance that the 2011 World Cup is a subcontinent event, and should stay as one.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo