ICC’s new Future Tours program

A two-and-a-half month period for the IPL each year, and home season windows for the Hundred and the BBL in England and Australia’s schedules respectively, confirm the growing primacy of franchise T20 leagues on the international cricket calendar.

A near-final draft of the ICC’s latest Future Tours (FTP) program, accessible to ESPNcricinfo, details international cricket to be played by the 12 Full Members between May 2023 and April 2027. It is mainly built on two cycles of the World Test Championship (WTC), a large number of ICC events and a lot of bilateral white ball cricket. But it’s the unmarked holes in the calendar that tell the real story.

Every year, the period from the last week of March to the first week of June is an almost formalized window for the IPL. It has had an almost official window on the calendar for several years now, but this draft confirms BCCI Secretary Jay Shah’s revelation of a two-week extension last month. Very little international cricket has been scheduled in that four-year period.

The IPL between 2014 and 2021 was played between eight teams and had 60 games per season. In 2022, it expanded to 10 teams and 74 games. In the June sale of its media rights for the next five years, the BCCI had postulated a varying number of matches per season, ranging from 74 matches each in 2023 and ’24, 84 matches each in 2025 and ’26, and a maximum of 94 matches. matches for the deal’s final year in 2027.

Not only the BCCI has its own T20 window. During their home season, the ECB and CA have built in smaller windows for their main white-ball events – the Hundred and the BBL, respectively.

However, unlike the IPL, the Hundred and BBL windows do not bring international cricket to a halt. They are squeezing space from the calendars of England and Australia, who have previously played both tournaments alongside international matches.

Each English summer in this draft FTP, for example, is a three-week period in July and August free from international cricket. That is, presumably, to give the English white ball players more time in their big white ball tournament, something the ECB has insisted on when scheduling talks for this FTP. In the inaugural season of the Hundred, some of England’s biggest names, such as Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Joe Root, only made two appearances due to international commitments.

A similar approach is visible in Australia’s planning, although it is not quite as clear. CA CEO Nick Hockley has said he is trying to keep January away from international internationals so their biggest names can compete in the BBL. Except for January 2024, when the West Indies are visiting for a full tour including six white-ball games, each subsequent January in Australia’s FTP will be free of white-ball internationals, but some testing commitments remain.

The 2023-24 season is likely to be complicated by the ODI World Cup in India, with the FTP showing Australia will remain there with five T20Is meaning the home summer won’t start until the second week of December. The visit to the West Indies also falls under the final year of the current agency contract, which would come with an agreed number of matches.

The next two seasons seem clearer for the BBL, although there is a test series to Sri Lanka from the end of January 2025. -January.

Other members have also made room for their T20 leagues. The August to September period of the CPL is almost done, although only a handful of international cricket has been played in the Caribbean during those months. Bangladesh has kept January free for the BPL in every year of this FTP.

Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) third attempt at a franchise T20 competition will kick off in January 2023. In the draft of the new FTP, they have a window free from international cricket in January 2025 and January 2026. But they have only a two-week break between the end of a possible visit to India (from mid-December to mid-January) in the season 2023-24 and a trip to New Zealand. And in 2026-27, England is scheduled for a full tour lasting until February 2027; both India and England visits are important to CSA, but both could affect their T20 competition.

The South African league could clash with the UAE’s International League T20 (ILT20), which also hopes to create a window in January-February. Those months have been considered the best months for cricket in several countries in Asia and the Southern Hemisphere.

The challenge of the PSL is more complex. Over the FTP, the PCB has left windows open for when the competition is likely to be played: in February-March (2023), January-February (2024) and December-January (2026-27). That could be a result of not wanting to clash with the Islamic month of Ramzan, which is on the lunar calendar and starts ten days earlier each year. Either way, avoiding the month is a commercial decision: Ramzan is a period of heavy ad spend for many brands, impacting the money spent on the PSL.

However, the real problem for the PSL is the 2024-25 season. A home WTC series with England is followed by a succession of series in the southern hemisphere: in Australia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and New Zealand. That brings them to early February 2025, when a short ODI tri-series is planned with New Zealand and South Africa at home.

Immediately after, Pakistan hosts the Champions Trophy, their first ICC event since the 1996 World Cup. That ends on March 9, by which time Ramzan has already started. After that, the only window available is for the PSL (unless the previous white-ball trips to Australia and Zimbabwe are scrapped), meaning it will not only take place during Ramzan, but may also become the first league to go head-to-head, for part, with the IPL.

A number of tours in this concept of the FTP are circled in red, indicating that part of a tour has not yet been completed. Those could be adopted over the next week or so and a final draft is expected to be published by the ICC after the Annual General Meeting (AGM) to be held in Birmingham on July 25-26.

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