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No question of replacing Sarfraz as captain: Ehsan Mani

Lahore: The International Cricket Council (ICC) has to play an effective role in ensuring bilateral series among all the cricket-playing countries and the Pakistan Cricket Board will raise its voice at the international forum for it.

“I have already talked about it, though informally, at the ICC level. But now I am in the PCB and I will raise it more effectively that the ICC should ensure the bilateral series among all the countries,” Chairman PCB Ehsan Mani told Dawn in an exclusive interview here.

“Look, if there is no bilateral cricket series between India and Pakistan, why do they play us in the ICC tournaments,” he asked.

It may be mentioned here that during Mani’s tenure as the ICC president, India visited Pakistan in 2004 after a yawning gap of 15 years and it was the first series played between the two arch-rivals after five years. And a couple of more series between Pakistan and India were played till 2007.

However, since the signing of an MoU in 2014 between the two boards to resume bilateral, India has constantly refused playing Pakistan, claiming the MoU is not a legal binding and the Indian government is not allowing the Indian team to play Pakistan on bilateral level.

‘ICC needs to ensure India play bilateral series with us’

The PCB had filed a case against BCCI in the ICC, demanding a compensation of US$69 million.

“Yes, the case is in ICC and both the countries have to accept its decision. Unfortunately, it has never happened in the history of the ICC that two cricket boards are fighting a case against each other. Had I been at the helm at the time of filing the case, I would have preferred to resolve the matter through negotiation,” he said.

“I played a key role as ICC president to resume Indo-Pak cricket in 2004 through dialogue and I also persuaded England to visit Zimbabwe after setting aside the political stance of their government about the situation in Zimbabwe at that time,” recalled Mani.

When reminded that the PCB had held the dialogue with BCCI before filing the case, Mani said the dialogue should have continued and it would have been wise to involve the governments of the two countries for a better solution of the problem.

Asked if he had a plan B if Pakistan loses the case in the ICC, Mani said: “My intention is not to beg for cricket and to talk with anyone on equal term. We are ready to play and we have to go with each other. But at the moment the BCCI is not in a position to take any decision due to its own elections and the general elections in the country. The current BCCI body is unaware what will happen after the elections”.

“Then we will talk and if we fail we will again raise voice in the ICC since its constitution has the clauses against government interference, but there have to be discussion over the nature of the interference,” he observed.

Answering another question regarding the recent comments made by former opener and newly-appointed chairman of the PCB cricket committee Mohsin Khan about skipper Sarfraz Ahmed that should be relieved from the burden of Test captaincy, the chairman said: “I can’t understand why media is raising this issue. Sarfraz is captain for all the three formats and there is no question of changing him since the team is doing well”.

“Pakistan drew the Test series on England soil under Sarfraz’s captaincy and recently won against Australia in the UAE. He is Pakistan captain and there is no debate on this,” Mani categorically said. “It was an old statement of Mohsin about Sarfraz but now the situation is different. However, the media is raising it again and again,” he lamented.

He said Mohsin was picked as the chairman of the cricket committee because he had a vast experience of the game and his performance as head coach of Pakistan in 2010 to 2012 was very good.

When asked that he himself had made a statement in a recent media talk that Sarfraz’s performance would be reviewed before appointing him captain till the 2019 World Cup to be held in England, Mani denied it.

“I did not give any such statement. Sarfraz is the Pakistan captain till the time our team is giving satisfactory performance,” he said.

To another question about the criticism he received over the induction of Wasim Akram in the cricket committee, Mani said there was no bar on the PCB in hiring Wasim’s services under the light of the Justice Qayyum report.

However, when reminded that with PCB’s claims of zero-tolerance in match-fixing cases, it should have considered the fact that Wasim was fined Rs 300,000 by Justice Qayyum in match-fixing case and was also barred from captaining the Pakistan team, Mani said people were unnecessarily hitting at the former all-rounder.

Referring to the managing director’s post advertised recently by the PCB, Mani said he would continue as it was also the practice in the ICC.

“There is nothing in writing against Wasim Akram except not to make him captain and about that fine. He is not running the board, he is the best left-arm fast bowler of the world and other cricket boards are hiring his services too, then why should we not,” he asked.

To a question about any specific instructions or agenda of working from the PCB patron, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Mani categorically said there were none. “No, he (Prime minister) knows that I watched cricket by many angles and I know his vision about the domestic cricket. I am also saying that for the last many years. The prime minister knows I have no personal agenda and I will just work on merit for the betterment of the national cricket.”

Asked about the future of departmental cricket, which appears uncertain since PM does not approve of it, Mani said a committee was working how to bring long lasting improvement in domestic cricket.

“We will safeguard the interest of the departments as well as of regions in taking a decision about domestic cricket,” he assured. He vowed the regions would be given the opportunity to stand on their on feet instead of relying just on the PCB’s sources.

He said his first priority was to hire the services of professional people in all the departments and the PCB would hire media director and marketing director as well pretty soon.

Speaking about T20 cricket, Mani termed it as a real threat to Test cricket which is the real form of the game. However he lauded the ICC for introducing the Test championship which he said would help a lot in rescuing Test cricket.

The chairman refused to comment on a legal notice served on him by his predecessor Najam Sethi for quoting wrong figures about the expenses incurred by the board during his term. “It is a legal case and I will not comment on it. But we will give a reply soon,” he said.

About the resumption of the foreign teams’ tours to Pakistan, Mani said good work had been done in the past by bringing World XI and by holding some matches of the PSL in Pakistan and he was in talks with some countries in this regard.

He disclosed that a meeting of the Asian Cricket Council will be held in Lahore on Nov 17 in which around 22 officials of different member countries will participate. He said though India was still undecided about attending it, Bangladesh had already confirmed.

To a question, he admitted that the Pakistan Super League (PSL) was a profitable project and it would generate more profit as the title sponsorship rights for the next three years had been sold out in a handsome deal.

It is learnt that the title sponsorship amount this time round is Rs1.5 billion for the next three years compared to Rs1 billion for the first three edition of PSL. (Dawn)

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