Qaiser Mohammad Ali
Former International Cricket Council president Ehsan Mani has said that the BCCI had delayed it far too long in seeking the government’s permission for the national team to play Pakistan in a bilateral series scheduled for December in the United Arab Emirates.
While describing cricket as a “wonderful tool” to connect people of the two countries, Mani said the BCCI “severely missed” the “decisive leadership” of Jagmohan Dalmiya, his late friend who shared his belief that the game could help bridge all gaps between India and Pakistan.
The immensely successful India’s tour of Pakistan in 2004 for the Friendship Series is the brightest example.
Giving another example, 70-year-old Mani said that the Edhi Foundation taking care of Geeta, an Indian girl who strayed into Pakistan inadvertently, for 13 long years illustrates that human beings could co-exist without political boundaries.
“It is very disappointing that BCCI, led by Mr [Shashank] Manohar, has left it to the 11th hour to approach the government,” the London-based Mani told jantakareporter.com
To be fair to Manohar, he reluctantly took over the BCCI reins only on October 4, following the death of Dalmiya.
Manohar then decided to resume talks with the Pakistan Cricket Board. He invited his Pakistani counterpart Shaharyar Khan and two other top officials for discussions on the possible resumption of the India-Pakistan series. But due to a protest by Shiv Sena workers in Mumbai, the talks probably didn’t take place in that city.
Now, it seems the issue is back to square one, and the ball in the Indian government’s court.
“It’s a times like this that the decisive leadership of Dalmiya is severely missed. He never hesitated in playing against Pakistan, unless the [Indian] government specifically intervened,” Mani said, about the former BCCI president who passed away recently.
“Dalmiya genuinely believed that cricket was a tool in improving relations between Pakistan and India,” Mani, who forged a formidable partnership with Dalmiya, emphasised.
To buttress his point of the significance of people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan, Mani pointed out the case of Geeta, the deaf and dumb girl, who inadvertently slipped into Pakistan in 2003.
The world famous Edhi Foundation took her under its wings and gave her the name, Geeta. This week, the foundation formally handed over Geeta to the Indian government in New Delhi.
“Edhi’s gesture is not in handing over Geeta, but in looking after her for all these years. In his [Edhi’s] eyes, and that of millions of Pakistanis, Geeta was a fellow human being who required love and care and Edhi provided it unconditionally,” underlined Mani.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated the Edhi Foundation’s work and announced a donation of Rs 1 crore for the body. However, the foundation politely declined the offer, pointing to its established rules of not accepting donations from governments.
“I am proud that Edhi declined the gesture of Prime Minister Modi of Rs.10 million. Some things cannot be measured in terms of money, just as the goodwill created between the people of India and Pakistan. By playing cricket against each other, they do more than any politician can ever do,” averred Mani.
“So, I strongly believe that the series should take place as it is wonderful tool to create people to people contact, and which is the need of the hour,” he stressed.
A chartered accountant by profession, Mani was ICC president from 2003 to 2006. During his period he forged a strong bond with the BCCI, particularly with Dalmiya, also a former ICC president.
A chartered accountant by profession, Mani first represented PCB in the ICC in 1989 and rose to become one of its directors when he took the chair of the ICC Finance and Marketing Committee in 1996. He chaired the committee until July 2002, when he became the ICC vice-president. He also held several other posts in the organisation.
Mani, who himself played club-level cricket for many years in Rawalpindi, fondly remembers watching the India-Pakistan Test series in 1954-55, when India toured Pakistan.
In an earlier interview with this writer, Mani had said that one of his “most abiding memories” was India’s legendary leg-spinner Subhash Gupte having Pakistan’s Maqsood Ahmed stumped by wicket-keeper Naren Tamhane for 99 in the Lahore Test.
“I also remember admiring Dattu Phadkar’s bowling. He was a great bowler, and Vinoo Mankad as a player — and Polly Umrigar and G.S. Ramchand — tremendous Indian team, actually,” Mani had said.