India’s former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid is seen as a key witness as the cricket Board bids to thwart a USD 70 million compensation claim by Pakistan at the International Cricket Council (ICC) Disputes Resolution Committee hearing in Dubai on grounds that BCCI had reneged on a 2014 agreement to play five bilateral series between 2015 and 2023.The hearing began on Monday. Khurshid, who will appear on Tuesday, is expected to explain to the three-member ICC panel the role the Union government plays in clearing a cricket series between the arch-rivals, which is at the centre of India not playing Pakistan in bilateral matches. A top BCCI official in the know of things said Khurshid will be “India’s trump card” given his legal background and political understanding.The ICC is adjudicating on the Pakistan Cricket Board’s demand for India having already refused to play two bilateral series as per the agreement. Sanjay Patel, who was BCCI secretary in 2014, will also be cross-examined on Tuesday. Also turning up in the witness box will be Ratnakar Shetty, who handled government relations on behalf of BCCI.“There’s no way we could have avoided this ICC hearing. If BCCI didn’t attend, ICC would have given an ex-parte order that is non-appealable,” said the BCCI official. On Wednesday, ICC chairman Shashank Manohar, a former Indian Board chief, and Sundar Raman, a former IPL COO and close associate of N Srinivasan, will turn up as India’s witnesses.Srinivasan, former BCCI chief who was ICC president in 2014, and former secretary and president Anurag Thakur declined to face cross-examination by PCB’s English lawyers.PCB is demanding that India be held accountable as per their agreement. BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary has said in the past that Patel’s 2014 communication was a ‘letter of intent’ and not a final contract. However, BCCI could be at a disadvantage as the letter does not say any bilateral cricket against Pakistan is subject to government clearance. According to English contract law, on the basis of which the hearing is taking place, any document signed by two parties is binding and enforceable.The ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ between BCCI and PCB was signed when the proposed ‘Big Three’ model, a brainchild of Srinivasan, gave India, Australia and England the lion’s share of ICC revenues and massive control over governance was facing opposition.The BCCI and PCB agreed to enter into a long-form Future Tours Programme agreement but Pakistan had to first agree on the ‘Big Three’ model. After initial grouse, Pakistan helped India pass the model, assuming it would rake in dollars both ways – a share of ICC’s revenue and the lucrative TV rights from at least three bilateral series PCB would host.The controversial ‘Big Three’ model was objected to by several full members including South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and was eventually scrapped after Srinivasan, in November 2015, was sacked as ICC chief in the wake of the 2013 IPL fixing and betting scandal. After Manohar became ICC’s first independent chairman in May 2016, it was replaced by an April 2017 model based on ‘equity, common sense and simplicity’ and passed in the ICC 13 votes to one.Patel wrote to then PCB chairman Najam Sethi that India and Pakistan will play five series comprising at least two Tests, five ODIs and two T20s, between December 2015 and December 2021, either in the UAE or a neutral venue agreed by both Boards. In addition, India and Pakistan agreed to play five ODIs in November-December 2022.