The heads of both the Pakistan and India cricket boards spent the day in Dubai but managed to avoid each other, so prolonging the will-they-won’t-they drama of the series they are supposed to play in December.
There is a possibility of a resolution, or at least some movement on Sunday, but there is unlikely to be a one-on-one meeting between Shashank Manohar and Shaharyar Khan. Instead, Giles Clarke of the England and Wales Cricket Board, and as a senior representative of the International Cricket Council (ICC), is expected to play mediator.
Speculation swirled all Saturday around the fate of series and whether the pair would meet, but there was no meeting and little actual movement on whether the series will happen and where.
Instead, both stuck to their now well-known stances. Manohar that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) wants the series to be played in India and Shaharyar that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has ruled out that option and wants it in the UAE.
As reports emerged from India that Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are also options as venues, Manohar refused to expand on why the UAE was not an option in the first place.
Manohar is in Dubai for meetings with ICC officials, as he takes over from N Srinivasan as the world body’s chairman. Before arriving, he had been quoted as saying “there are reasons” for not playing in the UAE, but that he did not want to say what they were.
“[That] has been said by whom? Did I ever say this?” Manohar told The National when asked on Saturday why India were not keen to play in the UAE.
“No, we want to play in India. That is the thing,” Manohar said when pressed further.
“Presently, 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. So I don’t know what is the position.”
Given how often and publicly the PCB has expressed its position – that it will not agree to playing the series in India – perhaps Manohar’s famous policy of not carrying a mobile phone needs relooking.
Just to be safe, Shaharyar reiterated that stance to media on Friday night, while watching Pakistan lose to England in the fourth ODI in Dubai. On Saturday, he travelled to Abu Dhabi to pay a courtesy visit to Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth, and Community Development and chairman of the Emirates Cricket Board.
He told The National no meeting was planned for Sunday but that if Manohar “wanted to see me he can. So far there is no move and certainly I am not going to make any move”.
As it is, Shaharyar made it clear the matter was now out of the PCB’s hands. “We put across our position very clearly [that we will not play in India]. Now the ball is not in our court. The [Pakistan] government has said they will decide all matters between Pakistan and India series. There is nothing for the board to do. All we can do is listen to what they [BCCI] say and pass it on to the government. We are not involved in it anymore.”
Shaharyar acknowledged the PCB was aware of the speculation about Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as venue options but that, at this moment, it remained just that – speculation.
Manohar said those options had not entered his thinking yet and that, as far as the BCCI was concerned, it wants the series to be held in India.
So attention will now turn to Sunday. Manohar still has ICC business to attend to and Shaharyar flies back to Lahore in the evening. “I don’t know whether I will meet somebody [from the PCB] tomorrow [Sunday],” Manohar said. “Giles Clarke is meeting me tomorrow. I don’t know what he is going to talk about.”
As Shaharyar pointed out, however, “there is hardly any time left” now.
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