The International Cricket Council may have just signed the death warrant of Test cricket following the leaked release of the new future tours programme (FTP) for May 2023 to April 2027. ESPNCricinfo published a near-final draft of the international cricket calendar formulated by the ICC for the next four years, laying out the schedule for the 12 full-member nations.
The standout feature of the new ICC FTP for 2023-2027 is the increased importance given to the various T20 franchise leagues from around the world and the reduction in the value of Test cricket. As you can see below, there will only be four months in a year (June, July, October, and November) without a major franchise T20 competition over the next four years.
There’s more room for T20 leagues in the ICC’s latest Future Tours Programme for men’s cricket
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) July 16, 2022
The biggest headline is the increase in the duration of the window of the IPL over the next four years. The Indian Premier League currently runs for two months annually in April and May, but this window will now grow to two and a half months between 2023 and 2027 following the expansion of the league and the number of games played every season. In 2022, the league consisted of ten teams and 74 matches, but this is expected to grow to 84 matches in 2025 and 2026 and 94 matches in 2027 with the blockbuster sale of the media rights.
During this window for the IPL, international cricket will come to a standstill with the majority of the players plying their trade in the world’s premier T20 competition.
However, in addition to the IPL, England and Australia’s marquee T20 competition will get a T20 home window of their own in the next FTP. Currently, the majority of Australia and England’s T20 stars are unable to play in the BBL or Hundred due to their international commitments. In the next four years, though, England and Australia will play very little to no white-ball cricket during their respective competitions to allow their international stars to participate in their marquee T20 league.
Although, unlike the IPL, the BBL and the Hundred will only cause Australia and England’s cricket calendar to pause, the trend we are seeing across the board with this new calendar is the growing importance of franchise cricket. Along with the BBL and Hundred, South Africa is launching their new T20 league to complement existing competitions such as the BPL, PSL, CPL and Lankan Premier League.
Furthermore, while the quantum of T20 leagues rises over this next international cycle, the predicted death of Test cricket can be seen before our very eyes, with only a select few nations playing elongated Test series. Although India will play five-Test series’ against England and Australia in the next Future Tours Programme, other than that, the Men in Blue will play more than three Tests in a single series just once over the next four years. India will face New Zealand in a three-match series at home in 2024, with the remainder of the encounters comprising just two red-ball games.
There will also be a rise in the number of five-match T20 series played, indicating that the future of the sport is trending towards the shorter format.
The near-final draft of the international cricket calendar till 2027 confirms the majority of the fears held by the cricketing fraternity over the past decade. Cricket is heading towards a football-style model, with the franchise and club-based leagues at the heart of the calendar while international cricket and the red-ball game, more concerningly, get marginalised.
[Featured Image Credit: ANI]