Sri Lanka believed to be in mix to host Ind-Pak
The much-anticipated meeting between the BCCI and PCB heads took place in Dubai on Sunday afternoon, at the ICC headquarters. BCCI president Shashank Manohar, who is in Dubai in his role as the ICC chairman, met PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan to discuss a way to break the deadlock over the staging of a bilateral series between the two countries. Although there has been no official information on the outcome of the meeting yet, it is understood that one possible solution discussed at the meeting was staging the series in Sri Lanka, comprising five matches: three ODIs and two Twenty20Is.*
Though it remains to be confirmed, even a mere discussion around having the series at a neutral venue like Sri Lanka would have to be seen as a positive step, given both the BCCI and PCB have remained defiant about not playing at the other's home venue. According to the ICC's FTP, Pakistan are meant to host India in the UAE for a full tour comprising two Tests, five ODIs and two T20Is. However, with India leaving for Australia after the first week of January for an ODI series (which starts on January 12), the Pakistan series should it go ahead will need to be scrunched into a shorter one.
None of the officials present at the meeting, including Khan, usually an effusive speaker, revealed any details. Khan only said that ECB president Giles Clarke - who was present at the meeting - is likely to brief the media on Monday.
"We had a fruitful meeting," Khan said. "Giles Clarke was our facilitator and Shashank was also in there. It has been decided that Giles Clarke will give a briefing tomorrow. We have also decided that there will be no further briefing. I am not in a position to say more than this."
Khan was accompanied by Najam Sethi, head of the PCB's executive committee, at the meeting, while Manohar was the sole representative of the BCCI. Neither Clarke nor Manohar could be reached for a comment at their hotel. Khan and Sethi were scheduled to return to Pakistan by a late-evening flight, while Manohar will be in Dubai for another two days.
The presence of Clarke at the meeting was no surprise considering he has been a strong supporter of an India-Pakistan series for a long time. On the eve of the meeting Khan had already said that Clarke was playing the role of a mediator.
Clarke is head the ICC task force on Pakistan, which has looked into how the PCB could fulfill its commitments under the Future Tours Programme given the security issues following the Lahore attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009. In his report, Clarke had stressed on the significance of India-Pakistan cricket, saying: "It [the severed bilateral ties] is hurting the sport, particularly in Pakistan and the PTT sees no reason why this great sporting rivalry should not be restored as soon as possible, even if on neutral soil."
Still Clarke would have found it difficult to mediate here, given the rigid stance adopted by both sides going into the meeting. Manohar had earlier made it clear India would not play in the UAE as desired by the PCB, and speaking to the National on Saturday, he reiterated that stance once again. "Presently, there is no question [of playing in the UAE]. We gave an option to Pakistan, asking them whether they will come to India. Pakistan was to get back to me, they haven't got back to me." Asked whether there were any specific reasons he was opposed to India playing in the UAE, Manohar said there were none.
Khan's response to the offer initially was that the PCB would not send its team to India, keeping in mind two factors: the security situation given some political elements having opening displayed their opposition to Pakistan, and the MoU India had signed in 2014 where it was decided that Pakistan would host the first of the six bilateral series in the UAE. While the BCCI agrees that the MoU had been signed, its officials have always stressed that the series was dependent on the federal government giving it its nod.
On Friday Khan had feigned ignorance about the impending meeting, saying he was in the UAE to attend the fourth ODI between Pakistan and England. He said that he had not heard at the time from Manohar but would be open to discuss the matter. On Saturday Khan travelled to Abu Dhabi to meet top UAE government officials, reportedly to seek support for hosting the series in the Gulf state. He said the decision to play India now did not lie with the PCB anymore, but the Pakistan government would take the final decision.
*19.00GMT, November 22: This article was updated.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson