TV row could force change in India-Pakistan series venue
New Delhi: Could the “host broadcaster” issue for the proposed India-Pakistan series in the United Arab Emirates later this year force a change in venue?
With Ten Sports holding the rights for all Pakistan Cricket Board games and the Indian board firmly opposed to the Essel-owned channel, one television news station speculated that BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya was keen to see the first Test of the resumed bilateral series being played at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
While clearance from the Indian government is still awaited, amenable winds seem to be blowing. Union finance and information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley said on the day he had asked the two boards to first discuss compensation for the series’ broadcaster before the government took up the matter, suggesting further that a venue change could be on the cards.
The series — three Test matches, five one-day internationals and two T20 games — is part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two boards in 2014 for a period of eight years that will see India host the second leg.
That now may change, given the BCCI’s dislike for Ten Sports’ backers, given that they had tried to pre-empt the Indian Premier League in the form of the breakaway and now defunct Indian Cricket League.
PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan, currently in India has called for the series to be played as scheduled in the Emirates, though he was quoted as saying the broadcast rights issue would not be a hindrance for the proposed series and was confident that the two boards would sort out the matter soon.
“We are on the right track for India-Pakistan series in December after my meetings with Jagmohan Dalmiya, Arun Jaitley and Anurag Thakur,” Shaharyar said.
Though sections within the ruling BJP have opposed any resumption of bilateral cricketing ties with Pakistan — interrupted since the 26/11 Mumbai attack — the fact that Khan has met top party leaders and not heard a clear no is significant.
On the day the PCB chief met Jaitley and Thakur, the BCCI secretary said in a statement later, “Shaharyar Khan met me today in Delhi. We had a detailed discussion on when and where to host the series, and once it is decided, we will go back to the government for a final go-ahead. “Since there are certain matters that need to be addressed and considered, it was decided to take appropriate steps.
“The two boards would be in regular touch and review the situation,” Thakur added in the statement. Pakistan last toured India in 2011 for an ODI series, despite the ongoing fallout of the 2008 Mumbai attacks and though tensions have ebbed and risen since, the two boards signed an MoU last year for five bilateral series over the next eight years.
Ten Sports, however, are adamant that they would look to protect their investment and interests.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, the channel’s chief executive Rajesh Sethi, said, “We are not going to let it go so easily. We are the legal rights holder for the contract. There are financial guarantees that have been provided. “If there is something on which we feel there is not a ethical and fair push to us we have every right to defend and we will strongly defend,” he added.