With the first Test between England and India barely five days away, the two cricket boards are yet to even sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU is a standard agreement detailing terms and conditions under which the bilateral series will be played. According to a report in The Indian Express, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has asked its English counterparts to bear the expenses of the England cricketers during the two month-long stay in the sub-continent.
"Dear Phil, I warmly welcome you for the upcoming cricket series. I am however at great pains to inform you that the BCCI is at present not in a position to execute the MoU between the Indian Cricket Board and the ECB. This is due to restrictions on execution of contracts imposed on the BCCI by a Court order," Shirke wrote to Phil Neal, manager of the England cricket team in India.
"Certain courtesies such as hotel, travel and other arrangements have been extended to you on arrival of the team in India. However, till the MoU is executed, the BCCI is not in a position to commit to paying for the same. Please make arrangements to remit such payments. The BCCI will inform you as and when further instructions are received by the BCCI from the Lodha Committee," the letter stated.
The five-match Test series begins with a match in Rajkot on 9 November. While the BCCI needn't seek the Lodha panel's approval before signing the MoU, things are different this time on account of the apex court putting a freeze on the cricket board's financial dealings. The Supreme Court-appointed Lodha panel for cricket reform in India had said permissions would be granted only after the BCCI provided it with details on where and how the funds would be spent.
An article on Cricinfo said that an MoU is only used in case of a dispute between the two boards involved in a bilateral series. "BCCI and ECB officials were not available for comment about whether an unsigned MoU could jeopardise England's tour of India, but an official from another board said an international tour could still proceed without it," the website said.
Meanwhile, a source at the Lodha panel said that the "obstinate attitude" of the BCCI may jeopardise the entire England series. While BCCI is yet to sign the MoU with the ECB, citing non-appointment of an auditor, the source made it clear that the England Test series will be in a limbo if BCCI president Anurag Thakur and Shirke don't file their compliance report and appear in person before the panel.
The source informed that the Lodha panel is still waiting for the affidavits from Thakur and Shirke. "The president and secretary as per SC direction have to file affidavits in two weeks and then appear before the committee. They have done neither. President of the BCCI also has to furnish undertaking to the committee; that has also not been done. In the absence of all this, the England tour is being put in jeopardy by Thakur and Shirke," the source said.