PCB seeks $70m from India for unplayed series

KARACHI – Pakistan has kicked off a legal battle against India for not honouring a bilateral cricket series agreement, the sport’s governing body confirming Thursday it received a notice of dispute.

The PCB’s efforts to either play against India, or at least be compensated for series that have been cancelled has reached a potentially decisive phase after the board officially sent a notice of dispute to the ICC. In short, that triggers the start of a process whereby an independent ICC committee will sit on Pakistan’s claims that the BCCI has failed to fulfill an agreement signed in 2014 to play bilateral series.

The PCB claims losses of up to $70 million from the failure of the BCCI to play two series, in November 2014 and December 2015, which were the results of an agreement the boards signed in April three years ago. Sending the notice of dispute to the ICC is the final step in a thorough process of resolving such conflicts. It is only possible once both sides have exhausted other means, including conducting good faith negotiations. The PCB initiated proceedings in May this year, when it sent a dispute notice to the BCCI.

Both boards have met on a number of occasions to try and reach a resolution, but without success. In fact, one of their meetings earlier this summer in England got quite heated when PCB raised the prospect of legal action. The ICC chairman Shashank Manohar was present on that occasion. “The ICC has received a Notice of Dispute from the PCB’s lawyers, which will be forwarded to the Chairman of the Dispute Resolutions Committee next week,” an ICC spokesman said.

The chairman of that committee is Michael Beloff QC, who, incidentally, was head of the ICC tribunal which banned Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif for spot-fixing in 2011. A three-person panel will now be formed with Beloff potentially as the head, though he has the right to chose someone else as well. The BCCI and PCB will each pick one from a panel of independent lawyers on the committee to sit alongside the head.

The original agreement between the two sides is expected to be a central plank in the PCB’s arguments. That had the sides playing six series between December 2015 and November-December 2022 and also an effort to play a short limited-overs series in Pakistan (or a neutral venue) in November 2014. The agreement was signed, and would only apply, if the Big Three resolutions to revamp cricket were signed off on in June that year.

But with government relations between the two countries frosty for a number of years now, any chance of a resumption in bilateral ties has always looked distant. And that has been the BCCI’s central contention all along – that it does not have government permission to play Pakistan. The PCB had earmarked December as the time it would send in the notice, from as early as this summer. But its timing is interesting nonetheless because on December 7, chief executives of all boards will gather in Singapore to finalise details of cricket’s new international calendar.

The PCB has previously said it is resigned to not playing against India in the Test and ODI leagues itself, but had pushed instead to incorporate contests in a window outside the leagues.

At an ICC board meeting in Auckland in October, the PCB and other Full Members approved in principle a change to the international calendar after the 2019 World Cup. But the Pakistan board maintained that their final sign off will depend on the BCCI honouring that agreement.

Ignoring the two cancelled series now in dispute, the PCB says it has 24 international matches with India which it wants to incorporate in the new cycle: nine games in December 2019, 10 in August 2020 and five in November-December 2022.

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