More international cricket on the menu
Even as new franchise T20 leagues sprout up like mushrooms during the monsoon – the South African and UAE variety will debut in January – the ICC’s new FTP contains an increased number of international matches during the 2023-27 cycle. From 694 matches in the current FTP (2019-23), the 12 Full Members will play 777 international matches – 173 Tests, 281 ODIs and 323 T20Is – in the next four-year period. And that’s not counting ICC tournaments, of which there is one every year (for the first time since the 2011-2015 FTP). Expect the country-versus-franchise debate to get much louder.
More Tests, but not everyone
There are more Tests scheduled in this new FTP- 21 more in fact – than between 2019-23. But if you dig a little deeper that’s not necessarily cause for optimism for those worried about Test cricket’s health. Four of the nine countries that play the World Test Championship (WTC) are playing fewer Tests (England play six fewer Tests); if South Africa’s Test series with Australia had not been cancelled, they too would be playing less of the longest format in the new cycle. The big jump in the number of Tests in the FTP has come in large part from a big increase in the number of Tests that Afghanistan are scheduled to play (see below).
Bangladesh get busy
Who’s playing the most games in the new FTP? Not India or England, but Bangladesh. They have a whopping 150 bilateral international matches in the next four-year cycle. While there’s a growing murmur about the point of ODIs, Bangladesh are giving the 50-over format the most love by playing 59 matches. They’re also just behind the Big Three in the number of Tests (34).
South Africa taking it easy?
On the other end of the busyness scale, you’ve got South Africa, who are playing only 113 bilateral internationals in the new FTP. That’s more than only Ireland and Zimbabwe. South Africa’s schedule contains the second-fewest T20Is (46), the fewest ODIs (39), and fewer Tests (28) than Bangladesh and New Zealand. In fact, in the 2023-25 World Test Championship cycle, South Africa are not playing any series longer than two Tests (and they are currently top of that table and potential finalists). One reason for this could be that Cricket South Africa want to keep its international players completely free to play its new T20 League in January, and then there’s the two-and-a-half month IPL window, during which a lot of the top South African players will be in India.
Another feature of this FTP is the number of windows that have been created for the T20 leagues of different countries. The biggest one is for the IPL. There is very little international cricket scheduled from the middle of March to the end of May between 2023 and 2027, so that the top players from all countries – minus Pakistan – can take part in the IPL. Other countries have different types of windows for their leagues. Australia have tried to minimise white-ball games in their traditional January slot so their own elite players can play the BBL; Bangladesh have kept each January free for the BPL; the ECB has a small window for the Hundred in August; CSA are doing likewise for their league; the PSL shifts its windows but has one every year; the CPL has August-September.
The T20 revolution only really took off once India embraced the shortest format with open arms after their victory in the 2007 T20 World Cup. So what does it mean for ODIs if 50-over cricket seems to be India’s least favoured format in the new FTP? India are playing only 42 ODIs in the 2023-27 FTP cycle, the second-fewest among the 12 Full Members, and they aren’t playing any series longer than three ODIs.
More games between the Big Three
India, England and Australia will also see more of each other in the new FTP than they did in the current one. They had a total of 65 internationals – 27 Tests, 21 ODIs and 17 T20Is – scheduled between 2019 and 2023. In the next four-year cycle, they are down to play a total of 78 games: 30 Tests, 20 ODIs and 28 T20 internationals.
Afghanistan’s Test revolution
Since their Test debut in India in 2018, Afghanistan have only played a total of six matches so far. They have got 21 scheduled in this next cycle, one more than Zimbabwe and only four less than Sri Lanka. It remains to be seen, though, how many of these 21 actually get played.