Just as he attempted to do in his three-year tenure as the International Cricket Council (ICC) president (2003-2006), Ehsan Mani, this time as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, aims to help it build closer ties with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Speaking to Sportstar from Lahore on Wednesday, Mani made it clear that with the support of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, Imran Khan, the Board will leave no stones unturned to ensure talks begin between the two sides. This is his first-ever interview to an Indian media outlet since assuming his new responsibility.
As the PCB chairman, what is your immediate job at hand?
There is no doubt that we are very determined to get cricket back in Pakistan. It is equally important that we at least start working with the BCCI like the way we used to do in the past. Working closely to have cricketing relations and support each other. Over the years, that has got a bit different and that’s a bit sad. I hope we can reactivate the relations and work together. I know there are issues between India and Pakistan and one needs to understand it well. But these are early days.
For Pakistan,why is playing against India very important?
The reason is simple. The India-Pakistan series is considered as iconic series and it’s good for cricket. If you speak to any former cricketer, they will say that India-Pakistan series is quite an experience. It is same for players across the borders. From that point of view, if India and Pakistan are playing, it will be fantastic. It will also help improve relationships between the two countries.
What will you do to ensure that the process begins? Will you visit India or invite Indian officials for a discussion?
I have no plans to visit India now, though I will meet the ICC chairman, Shashank Manohar, and the Indian officials during the ICC meeting. In the Asia Cup, I will try and meet the Indian officials. I really hope that we can have a discussion there.
With Imran Khan the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, how easy or tough will the job be for the PCB to improve cricketing relations with other countries?
Imran as a Prime Minister carries a lot of weight in Pakistan’s cricket. He is probably as popular in India as he is in Pakistan. He is an iconic person and he is well respected and highly regarded by the contemporaries in both India and Pakistan. That should help in developing relations between two countries. My own position towards the Indian board is very clear: we are there to work together, support each other, respect each other. If we can achieve this, then we can only be good not just in world cricket, but also in terms of relations between two countries.
The ICC is set to begin the World Test Championship next year. As the former ICC president, what do you think teams and spectators gain out of the championship?
The Test championships were being discussed for a long, long time and one needs to give context to Test cricket. That’s something we were trying when I was at the Board at the ICC. I haven’t seen the details and have been a bit of touch about what’s been in world cricket, but there is no doubt that Test championship is the way forward. The main thing is that all the countries are playing each other.
Will you take initiatives to ensure there are more games between Asian countries?
In my time, we had an Asian Cricket Council, which was very strong with some great administrators from both India and Pakistan. They always wanted to play against each other for the sake of the game. We need to continue with that and I hope that both Boards will work in the common interest of the game.
What is the role Pakistan can play to help lower-ranked teams like Afghanistan, Nepal or Bangladesh grow?
Development of cricket in Asia has always been something very close to my heart. This is something I will always keep exploring when we meet in Dubai at the Asian Cricket Council.
As the PCB chairman, you will also have to supervise the Pakistan Super League, which has gained huge popularity. But there are views that such franchise-based leagues are taking the sheen out of the game. How will you strike a balance?
The PSL is no different from [the Indian Premier League]. The Pakistan players, playing in the PSL, have huge public support. T20 has a different role as compared to Tests or one-dayers, but then people want to watch it. As an administrator, it is only right that we go ahead with it.