India and Pakistan were about to talk, then they weren't and so it is fitting that this week the cricket boards of both countries lock horns in Dubai to try and resolve a longstanding and thorny dispute. The arbitrator, over three days, will be the ICC's Dispute Resolutions Committee. The dispute is over an agreement signed in April 2014 to play bilateral games - an agreement that has not been honoured and shows no signs of being so. The PCB eventually filed a notice of dispute with the ICC last November claiming damages from the BCCI.
Here is what you need to know about what is about to happen.
The backstory first
In 2014 the PCB offered conditional support to the Big Three's revamp of the ICC. Under the agreement, which the PCB claims is binding, Pakistan were supposed to play six bilateral series as part of the reworked eight-year Future Tours Programme (FTP) cycle between 2015 and 2023. Four of those series would be hosted by Pakistan, comprising 24 matches across three formats; and the six tours would include up to 14 Tests, 30 ODIs and 12 T20Is.
The two sides have not played a full bilateral tour since Pakistan's last visit to India in 2007. A year later, in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Mumbai, ties became strained. Pakistan did tour India for a limited-overs only series at the end of 2012, though both countries play regularly in ICC events and faced off twice in the recent Asia Cup.
They have an agreement you say. So why no play?
According to the PCB, it is only because the BCCI has not been independent enough from its government's stance of no ties with Pakistan.
And the BCCI says what?
They have maintained at every meeting with PCB that it has no authority to allow India to play Pakistan in a bilateral series. That decision lies only with the Indian government. The PCB doesn't agree, insisting that the BCCI has lacked the will to convince the Indian government. PCB officials argue that if India is allowed to play Pakistan at neutral venues in global tournaments, then why not bilateral series?
I'm presuming the ICC has done...
The ICC has maintained a studied neutrality throughout, except in one instance. Last year the ICC chairman Shashank Manohar advised the PCB against taking legal recourse. Manohar is understood to have told the PCB that it would spoil the relations with BCCI "for life" if it pressed legal proceedings against the BCCI.
Manohar essentially seconded the BCCI line, saying India could only play Pakistan bilaterally subject to permission from the Indian government. The PCB walked out of that meeting in London, feeling Manohar was "pleading" the BCCI case and not acting in neutral fashion.
Which, presumably, left the PCB with no choice but head to the ICC disputes panel?
The PCB felt that the BCCI should not have signed the letter of intent as part of the MoU if it did not have its government's permission. Having failed to get a positive and concrete response from the BCCI, the PCB finally sent a notice of dispute to the BCCI last May.
The PCB has claimed losses of up to USD 70 million from the failure of the BCCI to play two series, in November 2014 and December 2015. The PCB used the prospect of these series to sell its media rights and in their absence, the board claims to have suffered these commercial losses.
In addition, the PCB had several good faith meetings as prescribed under the ICC rules. However, those meetings went nowhere, compelling the PCB to adopt this last course of action: the dispute resolution committee. Consequently, the PCB sent a dispute notice to the ICC last November, which will now be heard by an independent committee.
Which lucky souls get to hear this case then?
The Disputes Panel is made up of three members: Michael Beloff, chair of the panel, who had previously been part of the ICC tribunal that had banned Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir for their roles in the spot-fixing scandal, along with Jan Paulsson and Dr Annabelle Bennett.
Will the decision of the dispute panel will be final?
Yes, the decision, the ICC has pointed out, will be "non-appeallable."