DUBAI: The International Cricket Council (ICC) panel hearing a dispute between the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) is likely to deliver a “landmark” judgment soon with reverberations for all intersections between sports and politics. A three-person dispute panel, set up to arbitrate the PCB’s claims for monetary compensation for two bilateral tours the BCCI didn’t honour, finished proceedings in Dubai on Wednesday. There is no indication when the panel, headed by Michael Beloff QC and including legal heavyweights Jan Paulsson and Dr Annabelle Bennett, will return a verdict though it is not unusual in such cases for it to take anywhere between four and six weeks.
Lawyers from both sides presented their cases over three days that began in what was described as a “tense” and “formal” atmosphere and which remained “intense” throughout. A couple of officials likened it to the tension of an India-Pakistan limited-overs encounter.
The dispute centers around an agreement the two boards signed in 2014 to play six series over eight years between 2015 and 2023. That agreement was the price the BCCI paid for the PCB’s approval of the Big Three governance changes; those changes were first voted in before being reversed. The PCB is claiming compensation of $63 million for two series it was supposed to host in November 2014 and December 2015 as per the agreement, but which eventually did not take place. The primary reason for the BCCI’s refusal to tour is political. Ties between the two countries have been strained since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and BCCI officials have made it clear that the decision to tour ultimately hinges on the Indian Prime Minister’s office.
To that end, the appearance of the most high-profile witness at the arbitration, Salman Khurshid, India’s foreign minister at the time the agreement was signed. Officials and witnesses are under strict instructions to not talk publicly about the proceedings but Khurshid explained to the panel that it was “beyond the control” of cricket boards to organise a bilateral series in the troublesome prism of India-Pakistan relations.