ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP) 2023-2027 Cycle: West Indies (71) to play most T20Is, England (43) to Tests and Bangladesh (59) most ODIs in FTP 2023-27.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has released the men’s Future Tours Programme (FTP) for the 2023-2027 seasons which tilts hugely in favour of the shortest format of the game. The current FTP for the four-year period of 2019-2023 has 694 international games.
The good news for cricket lovers is that despite the new Cricket South Africa (CSA) T20 league and the International League T20 (ILT20) of United Arab Emirates (UAE) which is shortening the window for international matches all around the world, there is a significant jump in number of international games as compared to the last cycle.
A busy schedule awaits Bangladesh as South Africa prepare for their T20 league
Compared to the 694 games in the current FTP, the 12 full members will play as many as 777 international matches - 173 Test matches, 281 One Day International (ODI) games and 323 T20Is - in the next four-year period from the year 2023 to 2027.
That’s not counting the ICC tournaments which is going to take place every single year in that period; this is happening for the very first time since the 2011-2015 FTP.
There is going to be a 50-over World Cup in India next year while West Indies and United States of America (USA) will host ICC World T20 2024 together. Pakistan have been assigned the responsibility of hosting ICC Champions Trophy 2025, whereas India and Sri Lanka will jointly host the ICC World T20 2026. South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia will host ICC ODI World Cup 2027.
TEAM-WISE MATCHES IN 2023-2027 MEN’S FTP CYCLE
Notably, Bangladesh will play the highest number of bilateral international games (150) in the next cycle. Even though there is a little bit of babble around the future of ODI cricket, the Asian country will offer its everything to the 50-over game by playing 59 matches. Also, their 34 Test matches in the schedule is just behind the big three - India, England and Australia.
South Africa are going to take part in fewer Tests (28) than Bangladesh and New Zealand and marginally higher than Sri Lanka and West Indies, who will play the highest number of T20Is (73), 12 more than the second-best India. The Proteas will play 113 international games in the four-year period which is just higher than Zimbabwe and Ireland.
Test cricket preferred only by ‘Big Three’
There is a lot of speculation over the future of the longest format of the game given how the new T20 leagues across the globe are attracting players, offering them some lucrative deals. However, there are more Test matches scheduled in the new FTP for the 2023-2027 period - 21 more than in the current four-year cycle.
But a deeper look at the schedule could end up raising some concerns. South Africa, who will finish this current cycle playing 27 Test matches with three of their red ball games at home against Australia getting cancelled due to Covid, are planning to play 28 Test matches. Actually, in the 2023-2025 World Test Championship cycle, South Africa, who are one of the potential finalists for the second edition of the WTC are not going to play any series that consists of more than two Tests.
There is a huge revolution for Afghanistan’s Test match future. Since their Test debut in India back in 2018, the Asian country have played just six games so far. The 21 Test matches which are programmed for Afghanistan in the next cycle is the reason for the growth in Test matches in the next FTP during 2023-2027; their number is one more than Zimbabwe and only four less than Sri Lanka.
“With Test cricket, it’s just iconic nations or the big cricketing nations that are contributing at the moment,” Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith spoke to Sky Sports about how only the top three nations will play more Test matches than others.
India, England and Australia will also lock horns with each other more in the new future tours programme. The current schedule has seen 65 international clashes consisting of 27 Tests, 21 ODIs and 17 T20s between them, while during the period from 2023 to 2027, they are proposed to play a total of 78 games which is divided into 30 Tests, 20 ODIs and 28 T20 Internationals.
Australia are set to welcome India for a five-match Test series in the 2023-25 WTC cycle while a reciprocal tour will follow in the 2025-27 cycle. It will be the first time since 1992 that the two sides will clash against each other in a five-match Test series.
The modern age loves T20 format
The moment India clinched the ICC World T20 2007 in its maiden edition, the world slowly but steadily began to grab the format with both hands and after 15 years, the modern age loves the shortest format along with the franchise-based leagues conducted by all the boards.
Every team seems to be playing a decent number of T20Is; while West Indies will take part in the highest number (73) of T20Is, Zimbabwe will play the least number (45) of games in the shortest format.
But another remarkable trademark of this FTP is that all the different teams have kept space in the calendar for their specific T20 leagues. There are hardly any international games scheduled from the middle of March to the end of May between 2023 and 2027 which means that the top players from all the countries except Pakistan can join their respective franchises in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
In the same way, Australia have tried to cut the number of white-ball games in January to give their elite players a chance to be part of the Big Bash League (BBL) while Bangladesh have also kept themselves free in the same month due to Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
South Africa too are doing the same along with Pakistan who have shifted windows for the Pakistan Super League (PSL). England in their busy home summer have squeezed out a small window for The Hundred in August while West Indies too have reserved the period of August-September for their Caribbean Premier League (CPL).
No future for ODIs?
The talking point of late has been around the future of One Day International (ODI) games which, with the rising rate of T20 cricket that’s giving birth to some leagues around the world, is getting destroyed. All these things are making 50-over cricket the least favoured format among the players.
South Africa have sacrificed their three-match away ODI series against Australia in January next year to make their top players available for their new T20 league. This could easily steal their chance of a direct qualification to ICC ODI World Cup 2023 in India.
“For South Africa to be in Australia out of their key part of the summer is a huge stress for them in financial terms; it’s like asking England not to play during your summer,” CSA T20 league commissioner, Graeme Smith explained.
In the next FTP, more teams seem to be showing reduced interest towards 50-over cricket. India are playing only 42 ODIs in the 2023-2027 FTP cycle, the second-fewest among the 12 full members. India are also not going to play any series longer than three ODIs. South Africa will play the least ODIs (39), while Bangladesh will play the highest with 59 games.
Sri Lanka and Ireland will follow them in the same manner with more than 50 ODI games in the four-year cycle while Zimbabwe too will spend some fruitful time on the field playing this format. So, it appears to be the case that big nations are trying to play more Test matches and T20I games, putting ODIs in a specific bracket.
Nonetheless, it will be really interesting to see how many of these 777 international games actually pan out in the future.