PCB chief still hopeful of India-Pakistan bilateral series

Najam Sethi hopes that the Indian government will soon ‘see the wisdom of not playing politics with the game that people of both countries love’.

Najam Sethi also confirmed that PCB is mulling of Malaysia being an alternate home venue to Dubai.   -  AP

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi, in an interview to Sportstar on Saturday, has ended weeks of speculation and has confirmed that the Board is looking at Malaysia as an alternate venue to Dubai.

Sethi, who loves speaking his mind, also hoped that the Indian government will soon "see the wisdom of not playing politics with the game that both Indians and Pakistanis love".

With another edition of the Pakistan Super League coming up, what is the PCB expecting from the league?

PSL 3 with six teams is going to be bigger and better than ever. With more top foreign players, more matches, (there would be) more revenues. A final in Karachi is the icing on the cake. It will pave the way for the return of international players and cricket to Pakistan.

What measures would the Board take to ensure that there are no controversies hovering around the PSL this time around?

There was only one hiccup last year (the spot-fixing allegations) at the start of the tournament. (There would be) no controversies at all because we nipped the evil in the bud and the culprits (Khalid Latif, Sharjeel Khan) have been banned for five years. That will be a deterrent this year. Plus, there will be an enhanced cooperation between the Anti-Corruption Units (ACU) of ICC and PCB on the ground.

There is a buzz that the PCB is planning to look beyond Dubai as its home venue. How true is that?

We are going to check out Malaysia as an alternative back up venue.

Why such a decision? What makes you zero in on Malaysia?

It is because the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) is planning to host a couple of leagues whose schedules may pose a conflict of interest with our Future Tour Programmes (FTP) and PSL.

What would Pakistan’s stand be on the 2021 Champions Trophy? There were reports that PCB is keen on hosting the tournament in case India misses out...

The BCCI and PCB have issues. We are before the Dispute Resolution Committee of the ICC. Also the ICC will shift its tournaments from India if the government doesn’t exempt it from tax. If that comes to pass, I am sure the Pakistan government will exempt ICC fixtures in Pakistan from tax in order to facilitate the return of international cricket to the country. But it is premature to speculate about the ICC options ahead.

After looking at the first draft of the proposed FTP, the PCB took a stance against it in the likely scenario that India’s matches are not added to the schedule. What is the stance now?

The PCB has signed the FTP subject to the outcome of the dispute before the ICC.

Recently, the international hockey federation has stated that Pakistan will be invited to play in India for the World Cup later this year. But in cricket, the situation still remains gloomy. What are your thoughts on it?

The ball is in the court of the Indian government. It is reportedly stopping the BCCI from honouring its contract with PCB to start bilateral cricket. We shall review our options as the situation unfolds.

Being the PCB chief, do you see a realistic chance of an India-Pakistan bilateral series anytime soon?

I am confident that sooner rather than later the Indian government will see the wisdom of not playing politics with the game that both Indians and Pakistanis love.