Four years ago, the Boards of India, England and Australia drew up a ‘Big Three’ financial model to enable them to appropriate a lion’s share of International Cricket Council (ICC) revenue. It was shot down through the collective will of the other Boards. But the three countries have outsmarted everyone through clever scheduling of their bilateral matches in the next five-year cycle.
England features in 59 Test matches, the highest number by any team, during the five-year cycle in ICC’s new Future Tour Programme for 2018-2023. And out of these nearly 60 encounters, they will play 25 against their ‘Big Three’ partners—15 against India and 10 against Australia.
India, on the other hand, will play more than 50 percent of their matches against the other two Big Three members. Out of 51—the second highest during the period–27 will be against England (15) and Australia (12). And Australia (47) will play nearly half of their matches against England (12) and India (10).
The other nine full members will have to share remaining matches involving the Big Three during the five-year cycle. Sri Lanka will feature in 160 matches including 43 Tests. But they have just three Tests against India, four against Australia and five against England—totalling 12 during the entire period.
England will visit Sri Lanka twice within the period to play five Tests but have not included any home Tests against Sri Lanka. But the English team will be here for three Tests, five ODIs and a T20I in October 2018, returning again in March 2020 for a short two-match Test series, their last excursion to Sri Lanka for the five-year period.
Australia’s next visit to Sri Lanka will be in six years (they last came in 2016) but Sri Lanka will visit Australia in January 2019 for two Tests. The lack of engagement with other ICC members isn’t really a surprise, given how hard it is to market Test series to potential sponsors at present.
This will have a substantial impact on SLC’s earnings during the next cricket cycle. Even though Sri Lanka visits India twice to play three Tests, three T20Is and five ODIs, it is those homes series that fill up coffers.
The new cycle shows Sri Lanka will not engage in any Tests against the newly anointed Afghanistan, who were thrashed by the Indians inside two days in their opening Test, and just one match against newcomer Ireland. Zimbabwe get two Tests from the Sri Lankans.
Of those 43 Tests, Sri Lanka will play West Indies the most, with seven encounters including the three-match series currently underway. They will have at least one match against all 11 Test playing countries (except Afghanistan). There will be six matches each against New Zealand and South Africa while England and Bangladesh will feature in five Tests apiece during the cycle.
Out of the Test engagements, 13 will be in the World Test Championships first phase. Overall, nine top-ranked sides will participate in the inaugural edition of the WTC, which will take place from July 15, 2019, to April 30, 2021. Dinesh Chandimal’s men will begin their Test championships with a two-match series against New Zealand in August next year, their first visit to the island in six years.
The Test championships will include a home series against England and Bangladesh in 2020 and two away series against Pakistan (October 2019) and West Indies (February 2021). However, given Sri Lanka’s standing, it will need a marathon effort for them to make it to the final of the Test Championships in England in 2021.
Of the 160 matches, Sri Lanka will play 71 ODIs and 46 T20Is including the 13-team ODI League, which will run from 1 May 2020 to 31 March 2022. All the sides will play eight series over a two-year cycle on a home-and-away basis against mutually agreed opponents. Sri Lanka will host South Africa for their first series in the ODI league which will serve as a qualification to the 2023 World Cup. This will be followed by a tour against India at home.
“If you look at the overall picture, all the countries have got a fair share of matches during the five-year cycle,” said Ashley de Silva CEO Sri Lanka Cricket. “One of the main concerns when scheduling was playing back-to-back cricket. In the previous cycle, we’ve played around 13 Test matches a year but it has now been brought down to around eight to manage the player workload. The reason why India, Australia and England got more is because of their traditional matches—like the Ashes”.
Hosts India plus the seven highest-ranked sides in the ODI league as at March 31, 2022, will qualify directly for the 2023 World Cup, while the bottom five sides will get a second chance to qualify through the ICC World Cup Qualifier. During the cycle, countries will also play in two 50 World Cups in 2019 and 2023 and two T20 World Cups 2020 and 2021.
Next FTP Cycle Per Team (2018-19-2022-23)
India (203) : 51 Tests, 83 ODIs, 69 T20Is
West Indies (186) : 43 Tests, 75 ODIs, 68 T20Is
England (175) : 59 Tests, 66 ODIs, 50 T20Is
Australia (174) : 47 Tests, 68 ODIs, 59 T20Is
Pakistan (164) : 40 Tests, 61 ODIs, 63 T20Is
South Africa (160) : 38 Tests, 66 ODIs, 56 T20Is
Sri Lanka (160) : 43 Tests, 71 ODIs, 46 T20Is
Bangladesh (160) : 44 Tests, 59 ODIs, 57 T20Is
New Zealand (159) : 38 Tests, 62 ODIs, 59 T20Is
Ireland (142) : 13 Tests, 64 ODIs, 65 T20Is
Zimbabwe (130) : 21 Tests, 59 ODIs, 50 T20Is
Afghanistan (109) : 13 Tests, 51 ODIs, 45 T20Is
Sri Lanka’s proposed FTP against each country from June 2018 to January 2023
Country Test ODIs T20s
Afghanistan 0 3 3
Australia 4 5 6
Bangladesh 5 6 0
England 5 8 4
India 3 8 9
Ireland 1 2 0
New Zealand 6 9 7
Pakistan 4 6 3
South Africa 4 15 7
West Indies 7 6 5
Zimbabwe 2 3 2