BCCI president Shashank Manohar is likely to meet PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan in Dubai on Saturday to discuss the bilateral series offer he had made a week ago. Manohar will reach Dubai on Friday evening, on a four-day visit, to acquaint himself with ICC affairs after the BCCI nominated him as ICC chairman - replacing N Srinivasan - at the Indian board's annual general meeting on November 9. It is understood that Khan is already in Dubai, having reached there on Thursday morning.
Neither the BCCI nor the PCB offered any official statement, but the Dubai meeting is the next step in the discussions both boards have been having recently in an attempt to resume cricketing ties between the two countries. Manohar has already offered the PCB a series in India, but the Pakistan board is adamant that it hosts the series in the UAE, as is specified in the ICC's Future Tours Programme (FTP). However, it is understood that Manohar is strongly against playing in the UAE. A senior BCCI official said that Manohar had told him one of the reasons for this was because of the "nefarious activities" in the region, by which he meant the presence of bookies and cricket still being vulnerable to match-fixing.
Manohar disagreed when asked whether getting permission from the federal government was proving to be a hurdle in getting India to play in the UAE. "We are not asking any permission from the government. We are not playing in UAE. That is certain. There are reasons. But I don't want another debate on that. So I will not tell you the reasons," Manohar told ESPNcricinfo on November 17. Also, after Khan had gone public last week with the BCCI's offer to play a series in India, Manohar as well as BCCI secretary Anuarg Thakur categorically stated that the only way the series could be held was if Pakistan were willing to travel to India.
Khan had revealed that Manohar rang him on November 13 to check whether Pakistan would be willing to play a bilateral series in India in December. He said that disturbances in the phone network did not allow both men to talk at length, so he requested Manohar to send the offer through an official communiqué. Subsequently he and the PCB had expressed surprise at the BCCI's offer to play in India, keeping in mind the anti-Pakistan sentiment that has been expressed by regional political parties like the Shiv Sena, and also reiterated the fact that it was Pakistan's turn to host India and that as per the FTP.
The fact that Manohar is meeting Khan indicates he has not closed the door on the series, though insiders don't see him changing his "mindset" on playing in the UAE. According to the senior board official, while Manohar was still positive about a series taking place, the venue posed a problem.
Incidentally Manohar had issued a strongly worded public statement on March 26 last year, saying the BCCI's move to play the first leg of IPL 2014 in the UAE would "tarnish" the image of the tournament. "Many years back a conscious decision was taken by the BCCI to abstain from [playing] matches in the Middle East in view of certain information regarding rampant betting and match-fixing [there]. As far as I know, that decision has not been revoked," Manohar wrote in the one-page statement. "Due to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the decision to shift the IPL matches to the Middle East will further tarnish the already murky waters surrounding the tournament."
Despite his protests, the IPL did take place at three venues across the UAE, without any incident. The official said that he and other senior administrators had tried to tell Manohar about the assurances given by the UAE government, which had paved the way for the 15-day first-leg of the league to be held there smoothly. But Manohar, he said, would not change his stance.
On Thursday evening, Thakur had said that a decision on the Pakistan series was likely to be taken in the following two days.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo