LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board has given a deadline to the International Cricket Council (ICC) till end of March to get the required guarantees from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for the issuance of Indian visas to Pakistan team, journalists and fans for the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 or else the PCB will demand to shift the event from India to the UAE.

In a chat with a group of journalists here on Friday, PCB chairman Ehsan Mani said: “At the ICC level we are in contact to ensure Indian visas for Pakistan team, journalists, fans and board’s officials and security are issued well on time.

“The ICC has been quite lazy so far as it was to confirm all this by Dec 31, 2020. However, we are still awaiting for the guarantees despite my repeated demands in January and February,” lamented Mani. “Now we have given a deadline to the ICC till end of March to obtain the guarantees from the BCCI.

“And if the ICC fails to meet the deadline, the PCB will demand to pull out the World Cup from India and move it to the UAE,” Mani warned.

Asked if the ICC, which has been playing into the hands of the BCCI for several years now, would bow down to the PCB’s demand, Mani said it was PCB’s legal and constitutional right to make such a demand.

To a question, he admitted that the ICC should have to play a strong role like the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when the latter decided not to give any international event to India until its Olympic Committee gets visa assurance guarantee for every athlete of the world from the government.

Mani said the PCB had always been in the forefront in supporting international cricket and in the recent past, the Pakistan team toured England and New Zealand which helped those cricket boards to stabilise their financial positions. But he added it was unfortunate that first England and now Australia have refused to play in South Africa due to Covid-19, causing great financial losses to the Proteas. “At the same time, both England and Australia are ready to play in India where the Covid-19 situation is the worst among all nations,” observed Mani.

Asked if the Big Three formula policy in the ICC still existed, Mani said though they claimed there was no big three formula working, it seems as if the mindset was still there. He said while other countries preferred to play India for financial gains, Pakistan had no such pressures as its cricket would run with or without India. He hoped that all cancelled series would be revised and revived.

The chairman said that he thought the ICC think-tank was reviewing the strategy to ensure no big country could pressurise the weaker ones.

Mani further said it was unfortunate that a wrong perception about Pakistan had developed around the world about the security situation although there was nothing to it really. “Whenever any cricket team or their security teams have visited Pakistan, they have been amazed how good the things are here and how a wrong perception has been created.

“Our high level security arrangements may be conveying a wrong message to the world, but we have to follow these measures for the next couple of years because it is a hard fact that one team (Sri Lanka) has been attacked in Pakistan,” he said.

Meanwhile, the chairman said that it was a great achievement of the PCB to hold the sixth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) starting in Karachi from Saturday.

“Under the present Covid-19 restrictions, the PCB has successfully held 225 matches during the domestic season, hosted South Africa and also toured New Zealand and England. We have done 4000 Covid-19 tests and by the end of PSL, that number will be increased to 6000,” said Mani.

He said due to the efforts of PCB’s medical team all the SOPs were followed strictly as no untoward incident had happened. He said credit went to all those officials, who did hard work and spent a few days with their families.

About the future of head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younus, the chairman said the performance of the team and its management had to be reviewed at the end of every series and now the national cricket committee would be conveyed to do it after winning the home series against South Africa.

To a question, Mani said he had almost achieved the targets which he set in September 2018 and if he would be asked to continue, he would think about it and will then decide. “I will have to see if I can contribute anything further or not as I don’t have eyes on the seat,” he remarked.

He disclosed that it was the PCB which had requested its Chief Executive Officer Wasim Khan to extend his one-year tenure to Feb 2023 instead of Feb 2022, simply because he had done a good job. “Ideally I want Wasim to work for three more years as he has done a good job in bringing foreign teams to Pakistan and implementing the new cricket system,” said Mani.

Mani expressed the hope the interim bodies of the six provincial cricket associations would be announced by the end of February. He admitted a delay in this regard happened due to different reasons, especially Covid-19 but now the PCB had made the decision to move forward, though some cricket associations were yet to be registered with the registration company under the company’s act.

He said though the sponsorship deal with sponsors made for each provincial cricket association was not very substantial, with the passage of time it would be increased as most of the matches were and will be televised. He said it was the first time that a provincial level body would get a proper sponsor.

“The Central Punjab cricket association will have a separate secretariat at the Gaddafi Stadium while Sindh at the National Stadium in Karachi, Northern at Pindi Cricket Stadium, Balochistan at Bugti Stadium, Quetta and KP at the Arbab Niaz Stadium,” he said.

Mani negated the impression that the cricketers had lost the jobs in his tenure after departmental cricket was abolished.

“We are trying to run cricket on professional lines and now a cricketer playing all the matches in a domestic season is earning Rs2.5 million to Rs4 million per year. And we are also opening the doors for 100 former cricketers to work as coaches with city cricket associations (90 in number).”

Mani said after retiring from cricket, the cricketers should remain in the game as coaches, umpires as the departmental cricket was weakening the system.

He ensured a PCB nomination committee would nominate three officials in each of six provincial cricket associations from the PCB duly on merit and the PCB would not make interference in the affairs of the club, city or provincial cricket associations.

To a question that Urooj Mumtaz was playing four roles in the PCB and if it was not a case of conflict of interest, Mani said no it was not conflict as he himself had been working in four different committees of the ICC.

Mani admitted the success of every PCB chairman was attached to the performance of the national team, which was not excellent at the moment.

“Nothing can happen overnight and we are making our domestic season strong to have 100 players’ back-up ready to replace any player of the national team,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2021

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