With PCB and BCCI unable to set aside their differences, what happens to cricket?

Published: May 18, 2016

India Cricket Jerseys of all World Cups 1983 – 2015 Photo: Pinterest

The story goes that the chef at Jaipur’s Rambagh Palace had 40 baby lambs slaughtered the day before Pakistan’s military dictator, and arguably the most hated man in his country, was to be hosted as part of his trip to India to enjoy a game of cricket.

Former PM Rajiv Gandhi with then Pakistan President Ziaul Haq at the Palam airport on Decemeber 17, 1985.
Photo: Hindustan Times

Paying true homage to Mughal culinary traditions Safed Maas (White meat curry) and Akbari Raan (Akbari mutton leg) were on the menu as General Ziaul Haq rubbed shoulders with the likes of Lala Amarnath and Bishan Singh Bedi. Despised as he is for his toxic Islamisation drive that destroyed Pakistan’s social fabric, in giddily accepting the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s invitation to watch a match between India at Pakistan at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Zia exercised a tactful maneuver of “cricket diplomacy”. The trip proved to be a major public relations coup for the General as he met with Rajiv Gandhi and successfully managed to defuse tensions.

Thirty years later, the hegemonic behemoth of world cricket, the BCCI is displaying what Osman Samiuddin succinctly called “playground rationalism-don’t want to play, won’t say why” in its relations with Pakistan.

The only reason Pakistan had agreed to the BCCI, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia’s hijacking of international cricket’s revenue was the fact that India has agreed to play five series with Pakistan in the coming years. What followed was a frustrating comedy of errors.

Initially, the BCCI waited months on end to approach the Indian government to seek permission for the series. Once that was out of the way, issues were raised with having the UAE as a venue.

Firstly, the BCCI had reservations with Pakistan’s host broadcaster Ten Sports. Once that was resolved there were murmurings about match-fixing concerns in the UAE. The irony is palpable considering the International Cricket Council of which Shashank Manohar now finds himself Chairman, houses itself in the UAE after shifting its headquarters from its colonial womb of England.

Manohar invited Shaharyar Khan to Mumbai to resolve the issue as reports emerged that Sri Lanka was being considered as a “home” venue for Pakistan. Lo and behold the reactionary Hindu fundamentalist outfit Shiv Sena’s members attacked the BCCI headquarters at the Wankhede and Shaharyar Khan was left waiting at his hotel with no communication from Mr Manohar. It was a slap in the face of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the Pakistani media took the chairman to task, forcing him to produce his original invitation letter to prove he wasn’t there uninvited.

Negotiations fell through and there was to be no shortened series, let alone one with a Test series as well. There is only so much the Pakistani board could have done. The BCCI is all powerful and rightfully so. The advent of cable television and India’s vast market size meant that the original Anglo-Australian dominance of the game was going to be overtaken. No one could mess with the BCCI.

Chief Executive of the Federation of International Cricketer’s Association, Tim May had to learn the hard way as he took a stand against the corrupt N Srinivasan and was forced off his position. Similarly, in a childish display of disdain Srinivasan shortened India’s series against South Africa to show his displeasure at Haroon Lograt being elected chairman of Cricket South Africa. Many in the cricketing world were confused.

Why didn’t the BCCI want to play?

Surely there was a large amount of money to be made off of any match-up with Pakistan. It was later revealed that the real reason was that the ruling right wing Bharatiya Janta Party could not afford to anatagonise its allies in an upcoming state election. It was the old “why should we play cricket if Indian soldiers are being killed in Kashmir” rhetoric.

The PCB was embarrassed; it had tried desperately to get India to agree to a series at a neutral venue. Back home at the Gaddafi Stadium, Shaharyar Khan said the Pakistan cricket had survived this long without playing with India and would continue to do so.

But why was cricket being held hostage by petty politics?

Surely the sport would help to deescalate tensions if anything.

The frustration was deafening.

Fast forward two months and PCB flexed a bit of its commercial by stepping into the lucrative world of domestic T20 leagues with the Pakistan Super League (PSL). Test cricket was on the back-burner as the Asia Cup, PSL, World T20 and Indian Premier League (IPL) all happened in quick succession and yet again, Pakistani players were excluded from the IPL. Ever since the Mumbai attacks no Pakistani players have been picked up at the auctions.

The IPL already enjoys the mediocre commentary of Ramiz Raja and Wasim Akram’s coaching expertise. One can only imagine what the maddening commercial cacophony could do with the likes of Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Amir in its ranks. They would be sure-shot superstars as Shoaib Akhtar’s stint with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) proved in 2007.

One also wonders how a Test series between India and Pakistan would pan out today. No cricketer worth his salt would dispute the status of Test cricket as the purest form of cricket. The wily spin of Ravi Ashwin against the likes of Misbahul Haq, and Virat Kohli against the golden armed Yasir Shah and the slingy Wahab Riaz. The drastic decline in Test cricket’s relevance is crystallised in Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber’s “Death of a Gentleman” which exposes the corrupt commercial nexus that operates the International Cricket Council (ICC). The Save Cricket campaign is fighting an uphill battle for Test Cricket’s relevance as the IPL, Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL), Big Bash League (BBL), Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and PSL turn up the decibels for T20 cricket.

The pressing question is: The sport aside, why is cricket’s massive potential as a diplomatic tool between India and Pakistan not being exploited?

The PCB is visibly desperate. When will the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s political interests subside to allow normal cricketing ties to resume?

The series in the early 2000s were proof as the 2011 semi-final where Prime Ministers, Yousaf Raza Gillani and Manmohan Singh met at Mohali. It is a naturally de-escalator of tensions.

Especially Test cricket, since it exposes the players to the very bone. It bares the soul of its participants. The beauty of Test cricket is that it is not merely played to win; it is first and foremost a learning experience. News is abounding that the politician-cum-cricket administrator and notoriously uncouth Anurag Thakur is soon to assume the chairmanship of the BCCI. One hopes that Mr Thakur will heed the calls of the subcontinent’s aching cricket fan base.

Zarnaab Adil

Zarnaab Adil

The author is a thoroughbred Lahori and wide-eyed New Yorker pursuing a degree in Public Policy and South Asian Studies at New York University. He tweets as @ChZJanjua (twitter.com/chzjanjua)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • little children

    pak is always welcome to play in india…..
    in the case of playing in pak..first they should learn to provide absolute security…until then not only india but also other country will not go to pak..Recommend

  • Baddi Magane

    Sequence of actions:
    1) India will agree to play with Pakistan on the condition that Mumbai attack masterminds & criminals like Dawood Ibrahim be extradited to India.
    2) As usual, Pakistan will staunchly refuse to take the above actions.
    3) As a result, India will continue to refuse playing with Pakistan.
    4) Consequently, Pakistan will continue to plead, beseech and beg to play with India.
    ……….Please Rinse and Repeat in a infinite loop.Recommend

  • Pnpuri

    There would have been Indo pak matches in Lahore Islamabad Karachi multan and may be at other places, but, pathankot happened. Why blame BJP orBCCI for no game between two countries. Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Very noble sentiments. For the record, I fully support continued cricket between India and Pakistan anywhere, including in Pakistan once all security issues are addressed. A few points –
    1. “The only reason Pakistan had agreed to the BCCI, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Cricket Australia’s hijacking of international cricket’s revenue was the fact that India has agreed to play five series with Pakistan in the coming years”
    Yes, I believe that was the cover resorted to. I also believe that PCB made a virtue out of necessity when it found that it was isolated. One recalls the howls arising from Pakistan when the proposal was first mooted.
    2. Srinivasan was a crook. Good riddance… Manohar is made of better stuff. I expect him to clean a number of stables in international cricket. However, I wish he had remained BCCI President for a while longer. Far more cleaning is required within Indian cricket.
    3. With regard to Pakistanis playing in IPL, please understand that it is a purely commercial issue. There is so much negative sentiment against Pakistan at this juncture, no franchise would like to risk disruptions and damage to property because of protests.
    4. I fully concur with the underlying theme of this article ie politics and sports should not mix. I wonder why these noble sentiments do not surface when discussing trade. Pakistan consistently refuses to reciprocate granting of MFN status (sorry – that should read NDMA) to India. Pakistan consistently refuses to grant India land access to Afghanistan. If sports can greatly contribute to reducing tensions between the two countries, trade arguably can have an even bigger impact. After all, the greater the stake in stability, the lesser the chances of creating instability. While I have read many articles where Pakistanis decry the politicisation of sport, I haven’t read too many urging Pakistan to boost trade with India. One wonders whyRecommend

  • neil

    The only thing uncouth is this article ..forget the-uncouthness shown by afridi, ajmal , PCB officials or others showed. 2. It was in congress era cricket was put on back burner not bjp.. So blaming bjp is funny. Untill and unless masterminds of mumbai attacker who roam free in pakistan as hero are punished..bcci which is in mumbai won’t allow it..and after Pathankot attack, no chance. Funny you crib about not mixing sports ( which is now business) with politics ..but very well mix whatever you feel like to block India’s interest -trade, MFN status, indian muslim right to seat in OIC. Recommend

  • Rahul

    India will play cricket with Pakistan after Pakistan prosecutes all those involved in terrorist attacks in India. Pakistan has to learn bad behavior has consequences.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    Boring topic..Not even worth attentionRecommend

  • An Indian

    Pakistan and Pakistanis still don’t get it – Mumbai massacres have been a game changer (pun intended). It has done to the Psyche of current generation of Indians what the bloodbath of Partition did to that generation. And many times over – given the impact of watching that terror attack unfold live on television. Pakistani officaldom and it’s citizenry should disregard this only at Pakistan’s own peril.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Nothing will happen to bat and ball. Something bad will happen to crooks and criminals who use this Opium to divert attention of masses from ill-gotten money, media mad mediocre who divide people. Recommend

  • Rajiv

    India does not need Pakistan cricketers.
    Pakistan can’t do anything about it.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Tell your army to stop sponsoring terrorists by using LET and jaish, maybe then we’ll play
    Ironic that Pakistan teases us as Hindu baniyas and then think of playing India to keep themselves financially floatingRecommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    BJP came to power only 2 years ago. No Pakistani has played in IPL since 2009, when Congress was in power. This is 2016. Please do some math.

    How can you blame a Sikh of Hindu fundamentalism, which is very ‘it’ thing in Pakistan nowadays? BJP being is power is more convenient to Pakistan to make themselves believe their own lies.

    Coming to Cricket. Playing Cricket with India is a privilege. Pakistan needs to work to earn this privilege. Anything less will not work.Recommend

  • Aditya Sah

    You know what else can be a natural de=escalator of tensions? – trade. And see how people in Pakistan are opposed to it.
    I don’t understand, if Pakistanis are so opposed to trade till Kashmir issue is resolved, why it want to enforce cricketing ties with India. Oh I get it, the big hearted, superior pakistanis can’t survive without India.
    Please take your begging bowl somewhere else.Recommend

  • Bibloo

    Who wants to play cricket with hindus? It’s Gentleman’s Game and
    hindus are not gentlemen. They cheat. A lot.Recommend

  • Karma

    ..Stop waiting your time discussing Indo-Pak cricket..It is not going happen any time soon……Indian govt will decide when to give permission until then enjoy IPL and Kohli’s centuries.Recommend

  • Zarnaab Adil Janjua

    Where’s the fun in that!Recommend

  • Zarnaab Adil Janjua

    Perhaps the only sensible comment here.Recommend

  • Zarnaab Adil Janjua

    Nah. Screw that.Recommend

  • Zarnaab Adil Janjua

    Asking to play in UAE.Recommend

  • Zarnaab Adil Janjua

    Not enough evidence against Mumabi attackers. Sorry bro!Recommend

  • Zarnaab Adil Janjua

    You seem to have answered your own question very well. Bravo.Recommend

  • Zarnaab Adil Janjua

    Where’s the fun in that!Recommend

  • Headstrong

    That’s how rhetorical questions workRecommend

  • Rohan

    Their tactics will always kill more Pakistanis than Indians so have fun with your own orphans called TTP Recommend

  • Gp65

    There is some evidence available at scene of crime and all that has been handed over by Indian government. Other evidence is available in the country where the crime was planned and it is the duty of that country i.e. Pakistan to find that evidence.
    In fact some evidence related to planning is also available through Daood Gilani’s sworn testimony in US courts.Recommend

  • LS

    The list below looks more like history of cheating since 1990 (maybe even before, people may just have let it pass)-
    1) Like in 1992 using bottle caps to temper the ball for it to get reverse swing during England tour
    2) Like offering money to throw away matches as far back as 1990 during Australia tour
    3) Fined in 2010 for betting/spot fixing scandal and having 3-4 players fined and punished out of game and some still are.
    4) The team was also fined for losing a match deliberately… so that India would not reach finals.


  • LS

    Do you represent BCCI or Some Sports Ministry or Supreme court of India or commenting on behalf of PM?Recommend

  • LS

    Why should India Play with Pakistan?
    1) Every single time the hand of peace was extended an attack took place on India soil that killed people from Parliament, Kargil, Mumbai to Pathankot

    2) Support for subversive acts in J&K, Khalistan Movement, North East separatists by providing arms, ammunition, training and money and logistics in some cases

    3) Running currency racket and pumping India with fake currency

    4) Cheats? Granted that some Austalians, South Aftricans, Indians were also involved but pakistan has been at it since 1990’s

    5) Wars?

    So why entertain a country that refuses to let go of terrorism and its maleficent acts against India… Its not that we did not try to forget the past and extend our hand but all we got were more attacks and our own people being killed. So, why should be bear the cost of wanting peace? Since, peace with pakistan is deadly (literally) we like to keep our distance, have the border fenced, laser walled and will be adding ground sensors and possibly a 33 feet (10 Meters) high and 135 Meters wide wall

  • LS

    “playground rationalism-don’t want to play, won’t say why”
    if you are still looking for answers on why look at my response to Mr. Janjua.

    Secondly, BCCI did not play pakistan in SL, UAE is because Paksitan as usual did NOT do its own homework, i.e Mention the location where these matches would be played in the MoU. Thirdly PCB demanded 100% of the gate fees from UAE citing additional expenses of renting the ground/Groundsmen and facilities to which India did not agree since it wanted some portion of the gate fee as well. To lower the ground expenses SL was suggested by Pakistan but it did not want to share the gate fee at all, which again was refused by BCCI. Thus, it was classic case of being greedy not the conspiracy theory of the state election…

    Source: A BCCI EmployeeRecommend

  • little children

    as an indian i don’t require to be in BCCI or supreme court to express my views…maybe in your country, you require some permission to express your views…..Recommend

  • LS

    Opinions/view do not start like this.. “pak is always welcome to play in india…..” . This sounds like an authoritarian statement coming from someone who occupies very high offices…

    Opinions/view start like this: “I think that pakistan should always be welcome to play in India”, you can also qualify your statement with “It is my view/opinion”

    Got it?Recommend

  • little children

    instead of arguing on the topic, you are telling how to write opinion ??
    you can teach english in school…Recommend

  • LS

    Been there done that… If you expressed correctly… we would not be having this conversation.Recommend

  • Enkay

    Zarnaab Adil : Please have Pakistan stop Perpetrating Terrorism in India and then the Pakistani Cricket Team, Pakistani Artists can earn Huge Sums of Money in India. At the same time will keep on getting Free Medical Treatment in India including Organ Transplants etc.Recommend