Ehsan Mani sets sights on BCCI legal dispute, revamping domestic structure

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Newly elected chairman Ehsan Mani has vowed to push ahead with Pakistan’s case against India in the ICC dispute committee, calling the BCCI’s approach “contradictory” and vowing not to back down. On his first day in office, he also set his sights on fixing the domestic structure, promising to make Pakistan cricket stronger than ever. In a thinly veiled dig at his predecessor, he said the focus would be shifted back to the cricketers rather than glorifying the chairman and board members.

The legal dispute with the BCCI will be a focal priority for Mani. The matter lies with the ICC dispute committee, with the case to be heard from October 1-3, in which PCB will be claiming lost earnings over two unplayed bilateral series against India. The legal battle was started by the previous chairman Najam Sethi and Mani said he intended to continue it.

The PCB claims up to USD 70 million in lost revenue from the failure of the BCCI to play two series – in November 2014 and December 2015 – which were agreed by the boards in 2014. Both series were officially slotted into the ICC’s Future Tours Programme (FTP) with Pakistan as the hosts. However, amid a deteriorating political situation, the BCCI did not go ahead with those series.

At a press conference in Gaddafi Stadium, he was asked if he could have settled this dispute in another way. “If it was at an earlier stage, I could have sat with the BCCI at the table to sort this out, but the process has started and gone too far to be pulled back,” Mani said. “All the documents have been exchanged and the hearing is set for October 1. So withdrawing it at this stage when will make us look weak. Moreover, I am very optimistic that (the head of dispute committee) Michael Beloff is a strong arbitrator; he was appointed in my time at the ICC. He won’t be under any pressure and everything will be done according to the law and on merit.

“But I can tell you I will not request India to play with us. Their own policy has been contradictory, as they are always ready to play in multi-nation tournaments like the Asia Cup and the World Cup but renege on bilateral arrangements. So I never understood their positions and the basis of their policy. Even when I was at the ICC, they used to threaten pulling out on ICC tournaments. I told them that I could suspend their membership but in my position here, I obviously can’t do that. The ICC since than has been quite different, with India’s influence far greater, but I will fight Pakistan’s corner.”

Mani, a former ICC chairman, was elected unopposed to become the PCB chairman for the next three years. He took charge today and spent day being briefed on the current affairs in Pakistan cricket. He also met Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister and PCB Patron, and said he aimed to make the PCB “more transparent and accountable”.

“I have set my priorities to fix domestic cricket and make it stronger than ever, because this is the place where cricketers come through,” Mani said. “I met with the Patron and publicly expressed my wish to have fewer teams compete in domestic cricket to ensure greater quality. [Imran wanted] an Australian model but we instead have to invent a Pakistani model. We have different circumstances but in principle, it’s only quality teams that should be playing first class cricket.

“This won’t happen overnight; we have to conduct a thorough review and consult with all stakeholders. We can not ignore departments who are the major contributors in our domestic structure. They are undoubtedly the major employees for our cricketers and we cannot keep them out of the loop. I am forming a management task force who will identify the problems and suggest how we can make the structure stronger. There are a lot of challenges but we have to empower the regional set-up.”

The PCB constitution has been subject to change upon the arrival of every new chairman. The PCB chairman is the most powerful individual in the organisation, and enjoys executive powers. He has the authority to overrule national selections at every level and heads all major committees within the board, taking calls on commercial, finance and marketing affairs. That, according to Mani, has been a major conflict of interest.

“I have a major concern that too much power is accorded to the chairman, which isn’t good practice,” Mani said. “Nowhere in the world does this happen so we have to tweak the constitution. Ideally professional teams run on a professional basis. Whoever the chairman is, there is a system in which the importance of cricket should be enhanced and we will be running cricket to serve only one purpose: cricket and nothing else. The whole system should run only for cricketers and the importance of the chairman and board members will be toned down. So the intent is to take Pakistan to the next level by professionalising the system.”

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