ICC February 4, 2011

Rethinking the Future Tours Programme

Cricinfo
From Andrew Sanderson, Australia
32

From Andrew Sanderson, Australia

With talk of a Test World Cup, similar to the ODI and Twenty20 World Cups, maybe it is time to have a closer look at the Future Tours Programme (FTP) and how many games that Test teams are playing.

As it stands, there seem to be no uniform tours - each tour relies on the teams involved deciding how many Tests, ODIs and T20s that they will play. If the ICC were to set a uniform tour format, with an equal number of tours for each team, perhaps the ICC Rankings would have more meaning for all involved.

My proposal is simple - we set the number of games for each tour at three Tests, three ODIs and three T20s. The total days in playing time in this format is 21 days. If we allow five days rest between each Test and one day between each of the shorter games, this allows for 14 days rest, bringing the total days to 35. Allow an additional five days between the Test and ODIs, and a day between the ODIs and the T20s, and our tour total reaches 41 days. Finally, give the sides 10 days grace on each side of the entire tour, and the magic number becomes 61 days - about two months.

This format allows the players to have plenty of time before and after each tour (20 days), and allows teams to have six tours per year. Ideally this would be three home and three away tours. Given there are 10 Test teams (assuming that Zimbabwe are taken back into the fold), they would face each other once every 18 months, and in a three-year span would play one home and one away series against each Test nation. Of course, room needs to be made for major tournaments (the World Cups), but as a simple, starting suggestion, there seems no reason why this proposal would not work. If more Test teams enter the ranks, obviously the teams will face off against each other less frequently, but the distribution of games should still be equal.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Angel on June 30, 2012, 3:08 GMT

    I think your points 3-5 could eaisly be summed up as: better pitches in India. India will struggle to achieve anything much worthwhile or at least long-lasting if your batsmen can't bat on anything that isn't super-flat. The six last Tests India has played abroad has rather conclusively proved that, I believe.

  • Bill on February 9, 2011, 9:45 GMT

    @James

    There are actually 6 test playing nations in the northern hemisphere - which is rather more than 1.

  • Wim Vonk on February 8, 2011, 18:00 GMT

    Great idea to have conformity, but it won't fly because of the Ashes. We also have to reduce the number of ODI's like the silly recent one of seven games in Australia. Both teams are now suffering from injuries. But a good idea. We have to get countries like New Zealand and Sri Lanka to play more Tests.

  • Julian Dawson on February 8, 2011, 13:00 GMT

    I agree that a seven match ODI series is an abomination and shouldn't be allowed again. I agree with Strauss that the ODI series should be the tasty appetizer to the main event. Which always happened in the old days. And in fact occurred in 2005. Five match test series should be retained for the best teams. Only in a five match series can the proper rhythms of the game be accommodated and, as we have seen, the best team come out on top.

  • James on February 8, 2011, 12:20 GMT

    Nice idea, but not fully thought out - only one team is loacted in the northern hemisphere. Where do you intend to send the rest in June and July?

  • AB on February 8, 2011, 11:13 GMT

    Simply start everyone off on zero, then have a 4 1/2 year period where everyone plays a 5 test series home and away against everyone else, with 3 points for each series win and 1 for a draw and a further point for test victory and -1 for a loss (so a 5-0 whitewash would be the maximum 8 points, a 5-0 drubbing would be -5 points, and a tied series would be 1 point) followed by the top two teams playing a series of "first to three wins" with the first two matches in the 2nd placed country, and the rest in the 1st placed country.

    Then relegate the bottom team, promote the winner of the lower division (where they play 3 test series), and start again.

    In terms of ODIs and T20 - the concept of bilateral series should be scrapped altogether, and replcaed with alternating 2 year qualification periods leadinf up to each world cup, in which the test playing nations are split into four and put in groups with associate members.

  • Jurie on February 8, 2011, 11:09 GMT

    I agree there has to be a better way to do this - for instance SA has not toured NZ since 2004, SL since 2006 and SL has not been in SA since 2002! It's ridiculous that it is not more balanced.

  • Rohan on February 8, 2011, 10:55 GMT

    I think that's silly. 3 tests, 3 odi's and 3 t20's??? NOOOOO. It should be more like, 3 tests, 5 odi's, and 1 t20 or no t20. India's recent tour of South Africa was perfect as far as the number of matches were concerned, and they could have probably even done without the T20's. With The IPL around for about a month and a half, cricket fans already get their fill or T20's. Test and ODI's are more important to utilize at the international level.

  • Kingp on February 7, 2011, 23:46 GMT

    Not playing 5 tests is gonna affect the fans and organisers of iconic test series like Ashes. My suggestion is to only count a fixed number of test of the series towards the Championship points table. If teams wish to play long series they still can but be aware only the last 3 tests of the ashes for example would be counted towards the championship.

  • Tim Easton on February 7, 2011, 20:36 GMT

    PS T20I world cup every four years.

  • Angel on June 30, 2012, 3:08 GMT

    I think your points 3-5 could eaisly be summed up as: better pitches in India. India will struggle to achieve anything much worthwhile or at least long-lasting if your batsmen can't bat on anything that isn't super-flat. The six last Tests India has played abroad has rather conclusively proved that, I believe.

  • Bill on February 9, 2011, 9:45 GMT

    @James

    There are actually 6 test playing nations in the northern hemisphere - which is rather more than 1.

  • Wim Vonk on February 8, 2011, 18:00 GMT

    Great idea to have conformity, but it won't fly because of the Ashes. We also have to reduce the number of ODI's like the silly recent one of seven games in Australia. Both teams are now suffering from injuries. But a good idea. We have to get countries like New Zealand and Sri Lanka to play more Tests.

  • Julian Dawson on February 8, 2011, 13:00 GMT

    I agree that a seven match ODI series is an abomination and shouldn't be allowed again. I agree with Strauss that the ODI series should be the tasty appetizer to the main event. Which always happened in the old days. And in fact occurred in 2005. Five match test series should be retained for the best teams. Only in a five match series can the proper rhythms of the game be accommodated and, as we have seen, the best team come out on top.

  • James on February 8, 2011, 12:20 GMT

    Nice idea, but not fully thought out - only one team is loacted in the northern hemisphere. Where do you intend to send the rest in June and July?

  • AB on February 8, 2011, 11:13 GMT

    Simply start everyone off on zero, then have a 4 1/2 year period where everyone plays a 5 test series home and away against everyone else, with 3 points for each series win and 1 for a draw and a further point for test victory and -1 for a loss (so a 5-0 whitewash would be the maximum 8 points, a 5-0 drubbing would be -5 points, and a tied series would be 1 point) followed by the top two teams playing a series of "first to three wins" with the first two matches in the 2nd placed country, and the rest in the 1st placed country.

    Then relegate the bottom team, promote the winner of the lower division (where they play 3 test series), and start again.

    In terms of ODIs and T20 - the concept of bilateral series should be scrapped altogether, and replcaed with alternating 2 year qualification periods leadinf up to each world cup, in which the test playing nations are split into four and put in groups with associate members.

  • Jurie on February 8, 2011, 11:09 GMT

    I agree there has to be a better way to do this - for instance SA has not toured NZ since 2004, SL since 2006 and SL has not been in SA since 2002! It's ridiculous that it is not more balanced.

  • Rohan on February 8, 2011, 10:55 GMT

    I think that's silly. 3 tests, 3 odi's and 3 t20's??? NOOOOO. It should be more like, 3 tests, 5 odi's, and 1 t20 or no t20. India's recent tour of South Africa was perfect as far as the number of matches were concerned, and they could have probably even done without the T20's. With The IPL around for about a month and a half, cricket fans already get their fill or T20's. Test and ODI's are more important to utilize at the international level.

  • Kingp on February 7, 2011, 23:46 GMT

    Not playing 5 tests is gonna affect the fans and organisers of iconic test series like Ashes. My suggestion is to only count a fixed number of test of the series towards the Championship points table. If teams wish to play long series they still can but be aware only the last 3 tests of the ashes for example would be counted towards the championship.

  • Tim Easton on February 7, 2011, 20:36 GMT

    PS T20I world cup every four years.

  • Tim Easton on February 7, 2011, 20:34 GMT

    My plan would be Zimbabwe and Bangladesh play in the second division of test cricket along with Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and Kenya. WI, NZ, Australia, India, SL, Pakistan, England and SA would play home and away in 3 tests, 3 ODIs and a T20I quadrangular series as there could be two matches per day match series except Ashes which would be double. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe could possibly play Test cricket against the other 6 test nations. All this allowing for world cups would be completed in 4 years, the exception to the rule is the hosting team of the World Test or ODI world cup there would be no ODIs or T20Is. All teams would play at most 6 tests, ODIs, T20Is at home and away per year.

  • Chris on February 7, 2011, 18:18 GMT

    Three test series? Madness.

    Anything less than four tests is an insult to the public, and a waste of cricket.

  • AB on February 7, 2011, 12:59 GMT

    FIVE tests, three ODIs and three T20s would be about right.

  • simon on February 7, 2011, 10:36 GMT

    @Sir_Freddie Thats a nice concept, however how do we judge the top 4 which is based on a flawed system (test ranking) also what if one of the 4 slip in form, a form that doesnt warrant its current status, does it drop down like a relagation system, and if one of those teams are australia or engalnd what happens to the ashes.

  • SportySpice on February 7, 2011, 8:09 GMT

    Hi Andrew,

    Your suggestion seems good but think the players would want a couple of months rest time. Also the marquee contests need to be longer as teams need to acclimatise. Keeping three tests will either make hosts make pitches totally to suit their strengths or make them standardised batting beauties. I think the marquee series like ashes, border-gavaskar or among the top 4 or 5 teams should be 5 teats and 3 tests for the rest. Obviously the ranking system will need to be changed as not every team will be playing the same number. one days could be restricted to 5, it was a cracker of a series with the host SA and the second string India team against the 6-1 thrashing of England. Also T20 should be restricted to leagues and only the occasional T20 World cup should have the countries playing.

  • Santhana Krishnan on February 7, 2011, 5:57 GMT

    ". If we allow five days rest between each Test and one day between each of the shorter games, this allows for 14 days rest" Is this a joke ? Just a day's rest after playing a 100 over game ( ODI ).That might also go in travel. But this is not viable, because only the marquee Test series pull crowds and the boards would like to cash in . You may increase the minimum number of Tests for a Series to 3 as opposed to the existing 2.

  • Sach on February 7, 2011, 2:41 GMT

    That's an idea which isn't given much thought to.

    Why would you abandon a wonderful 5-Test series like Ashes (and no, I'm neither Aussie nor Pom, I'm a Sri Lankan) to allow for more useless T20s? Ashes is pretty much a sell-out despite being Tests, so let it be played that way.

    I rather think it's about time Test teams be divided into two leagues; top 5 and bottom 5. Each year teams in each division play teams from their respective divisions only, and at the end of the year bottom 2 teams of top league is demoted and the top two teams of the lower leaugue are promoted. Details are irrelavent; the idea is what matters.

    That way you can have the quality of Test cricket intact, and everyone gets a fair go. I also think the top league should get 5 match Test seires.

  • Blal on February 6, 2011, 21:56 GMT

    Good idea, but what happens to money involved in the shape TV companies! Who will rein them...?!

  • Ashok Sridharan on February 6, 2011, 16:11 GMT

    I agree with most suggestions except the 3-test series part. To me, 3 tests should be the bars minimum. Take of T20 internationals (keep it a domestic game except for the world cup) and restrict ODIs to a maximum of 5. God please save us from 7-ODI series!

  • Gopi on February 6, 2011, 14:06 GMT

    For any normalization to happen ICC should first have a say, which is unlikely to happen. Besides ICC, even units like CSA lick the boots of BCCI and would do anything to please the greediest board in the sports world. For example, there was no reason for CSA not to go for UDRS when their own players were in favour of it and ICC rules clearly say it's up to the host country to decide on UDRS. But what happened in India's tour of SA? CSA was willing to override their players' interests to please BCCI - all CSA wants is a tour of India so they mint money in that one series than they can manage in 2 years playing zim,Bang,NZ etc.

  • Adam on February 6, 2011, 14:03 GMT

    My preference would be to have a minimum of 3 tests per series with 5 tests for major rivalries. Let's bite the bullet and get rid of ODIs and replace with 20-20 (like ODIs without the boring 30 overs in the middle).

    I appreciate this would never happen but one can dream...

  • Sir_Freddie on February 6, 2011, 10:42 GMT

    It's a poor idea in my opinion. If all the test series are played over 3 matches then this year's Ashes would have finished 1-1, which is nowhere near the right reflection of the strength of the two sides. Just like the India-SA series prematurely finished 1-1. It also should have been a 5-match series. I think the top 4 test teams should play each other over 5-match test series. The top four should never play the bottom 4 (no. 7-10) sides in test matches. That way we will have more meaningful and exciting test match cricket. And that's all that matters. Couldn't care less about Fifty50 or Twenty20 cricket.

  • jimmy on February 6, 2011, 8:00 GMT

    Good ideas Andrew, I completely agree with a standard format for all tours. But there are a few issues; 1. Being a summer sport, how do you fit three 2 month tours into one home summer?; 2. What about the Ashes? Reduced to 3 tests? Regardless, it is something that needs to be addressed, we simply don't get to play each of the teams often enough...I for one am a little sick of playing England and India, but I do enjoy the back-to-back home and away series concept we (Aus) have with S.Africa. There is also some merit in the 2 tiered system, or a 2 group stage play-off with group 1 being teams ranked 1,3,5,7 and group 2 being teams ranked 2,4,6,8.

  • Sum on February 6, 2011, 3:55 GMT

    The only clear drawback is ,how do you define a year ,is it from Jan to Dec or Dec to Jan .Take for instance cricket in australia ,The number of months viable are Dec-Feb ,give or take few days on either side in Nov-March you get approx 90 days .this means just one team can come and play with the 60 day schedule .So how do you fit in 3 home series.It is not feasible.You could move the cricket to Cairns,Darwin in August,but that is not really a test centre is it?The board stands to lose making money if it holds it there.So in many ways a simplified fixture like that is ideal if all seasons are same,else it is not possible. The same holds good for England May-September which is 150 days at max.

  • Terry Jones of Australia on February 6, 2011, 3:25 GMT

    Brillant I couldnt agree more. Only extra think is that there should be at least 1 spot open in test cricket for an associate team to play with teams swopping every 2 or 4 years (pref 2 years).

    Addition to this any team should be allowed to play Intercontinental (Test A) cricket. It should be called Test A cricket (including full member A Teams) to allow associate teams to have a "Test A" career. The top associate Test A team should play test cricket replacing the bottom temp test team (eg: 10 full & 1 or 2 temp members for test cricket).

    Thus it would be like this: TEST: 10 full + 2 temp spots (winner of ICup every 2 years, with them playing test cricket for 4 years).

    TEST A: Divisions of 8 teams that include full member A teams with top associate country promoted to TEST cricket every 2 years.

    Test A lower divisions would have no prize money and be played only by countries willing to find the money to play (informal competition with promotions).

  • Subramani on February 5, 2011, 16:20 GMT

    Boards with lot of income will oppose your idea, and it will never see light.

    England and Australia will never agree to reduce Ashes to 3 test matches, and India has never hosted Bangladesh even once so far. These boards will be more keen on television selling rates, than on silly things like fairness in ICC Rankings, which only cricket fans like you and me will worry about.

  • Alex on February 5, 2011, 15:07 GMT

    Why can't Ireland be included in the FTP? Every tour to England involves a full member playing them, maybe Ireland can have tours to other full members to play ODI's as well. Down the road when given Test status, they can play Test's on tours as warm-up matches for the main event - I.e: Ireland v England or Australia as an only Test prior to the Ashes.

  • PLI on February 5, 2011, 13:41 GMT

    Good article, Andrew. I like your 3-3-3 system. Sri Lanka gets only two tests in every series, which is a joke. 5 tests should be allowed in two cases 1) Ashes and 2) When 1 vs 2 play each other e.g. India v South Africa.

  • Paul Frame on February 5, 2011, 12:10 GMT

    Typical Australian way of thinking, if the Ashes had finished after 3 tests,the 2005 & 2010/11 series would have been drawn.

    Test cricket needs more 5 test series between the best teams. Imagine 25 days of Steyn, Morkel & Kallis against Laxman, Dravid, Sehwag & Tendulkar

  • Commercial Break on February 5, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    So the real questions are:

    Is Australia and England ready to abandon the 5 test Ashes series for 3 or will they happily keep it at 5 which will congest their own schedule? and...

    Are all countries willing to set a schedule without inflating whichever format generates the most money for them?

    Your ideas are perfectly fine Andrew but can you see a resounding yes being given to the questions above?

  • Paul on February 5, 2011, 9:54 GMT

    Sorry, I'm afraid that wouldn't work. For starters, the Ashes is 5 tests. England and Australia will always want to play 5 tests, and indeed, sell out most days of a 5 test series.

    The key thing to look at is context. As it stands most series have no context apart from "hey, you two countries both play cricket. And you haven't played each other for at least six months. Play!"

    If more series had the cultural and historical weight of the Ashes behind them, you'd have more success, more crowds, and more passion. Don't drag everyone down to the level of West Indies vs New Zealand. Promote the flagship events, get rid of the irrelevant games, and implement the World Test Championship so that even a series of NZ vs WI still counts in terms of the bigger picture.

  • Sifter on February 5, 2011, 8:12 GMT

    Yep that sounds about right. Uniformity is sooo important, especially when we are using the Test Championship ladder to judge proficiency, yet a team like Sri Lanka has barely had any overseas tours in Test cricket. But good luck getting it past the greedy boards who want more Tests eg. the Ashes as a 5 Test series, or more ODIs eg. 5 or 7 match series.

    I'd suggest just having 2 home and 2 away tours each year, giving teams 4 months of the 12 off, taking your 3 year rotation up to 4.5 years. But that would give the ICC a chance to add in a major tournament spot each year, or have a window for T20 league cricket, and it would allow international players to play for their states/counties/provinces each season for a couple of weeks here and there perhaps, which would be good for the game generally I think. It lets knowledge be passed on from the top level down. There also perhaps needs to be some thought about tour matches and warmup games.

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  • Sifter on February 5, 2011, 8:12 GMT

    Yep that sounds about right. Uniformity is sooo important, especially when we are using the Test Championship ladder to judge proficiency, yet a team like Sri Lanka has barely had any overseas tours in Test cricket. But good luck getting it past the greedy boards who want more Tests eg. the Ashes as a 5 Test series, or more ODIs eg. 5 or 7 match series.

    I'd suggest just having 2 home and 2 away tours each year, giving teams 4 months of the 12 off, taking your 3 year rotation up to 4.5 years. But that would give the ICC a chance to add in a major tournament spot each year, or have a window for T20 league cricket, and it would allow international players to play for their states/counties/provinces each season for a couple of weeks here and there perhaps, which would be good for the game generally I think. It lets knowledge be passed on from the top level down. There also perhaps needs to be some thought about tour matches and warmup games.

  • Paul on February 5, 2011, 9:54 GMT

    Sorry, I'm afraid that wouldn't work. For starters, the Ashes is 5 tests. England and Australia will always want to play 5 tests, and indeed, sell out most days of a 5 test series.

    The key thing to look at is context. As it stands most series have no context apart from "hey, you two countries both play cricket. And you haven't played each other for at least six months. Play!"

    If more series had the cultural and historical weight of the Ashes behind them, you'd have more success, more crowds, and more passion. Don't drag everyone down to the level of West Indies vs New Zealand. Promote the flagship events, get rid of the irrelevant games, and implement the World Test Championship so that even a series of NZ vs WI still counts in terms of the bigger picture.

  • Commercial Break on February 5, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    So the real questions are:

    Is Australia and England ready to abandon the 5 test Ashes series for 3 or will they happily keep it at 5 which will congest their own schedule? and...

    Are all countries willing to set a schedule without inflating whichever format generates the most money for them?

    Your ideas are perfectly fine Andrew but can you see a resounding yes being given to the questions above?

  • Paul Frame on February 5, 2011, 12:10 GMT

    Typical Australian way of thinking, if the Ashes had finished after 3 tests,the 2005 & 2010/11 series would have been drawn.

    Test cricket needs more 5 test series between the best teams. Imagine 25 days of Steyn, Morkel & Kallis against Laxman, Dravid, Sehwag & Tendulkar

  • PLI on February 5, 2011, 13:41 GMT

    Good article, Andrew. I like your 3-3-3 system. Sri Lanka gets only two tests in every series, which is a joke. 5 tests should be allowed in two cases 1) Ashes and 2) When 1 vs 2 play each other e.g. India v South Africa.

  • Alex on February 5, 2011, 15:07 GMT

    Why can't Ireland be included in the FTP? Every tour to England involves a full member playing them, maybe Ireland can have tours to other full members to play ODI's as well. Down the road when given Test status, they can play Test's on tours as warm-up matches for the main event - I.e: Ireland v England or Australia as an only Test prior to the Ashes.

  • Subramani on February 5, 2011, 16:20 GMT

    Boards with lot of income will oppose your idea, and it will never see light.

    England and Australia will never agree to reduce Ashes to 3 test matches, and India has never hosted Bangladesh even once so far. These boards will be more keen on television selling rates, than on silly things like fairness in ICC Rankings, which only cricket fans like you and me will worry about.

  • Terry Jones of Australia on February 6, 2011, 3:25 GMT

    Brillant I couldnt agree more. Only extra think is that there should be at least 1 spot open in test cricket for an associate team to play with teams swopping every 2 or 4 years (pref 2 years).

    Addition to this any team should be allowed to play Intercontinental (Test A) cricket. It should be called Test A cricket (including full member A Teams) to allow associate teams to have a "Test A" career. The top associate Test A team should play test cricket replacing the bottom temp test team (eg: 10 full & 1 or 2 temp members for test cricket).

    Thus it would be like this: TEST: 10 full + 2 temp spots (winner of ICup every 2 years, with them playing test cricket for 4 years).

    TEST A: Divisions of 8 teams that include full member A teams with top associate country promoted to TEST cricket every 2 years.

    Test A lower divisions would have no prize money and be played only by countries willing to find the money to play (informal competition with promotions).

  • Sum on February 6, 2011, 3:55 GMT

    The only clear drawback is ,how do you define a year ,is it from Jan to Dec or Dec to Jan .Take for instance cricket in australia ,The number of months viable are Dec-Feb ,give or take few days on either side in Nov-March you get approx 90 days .this means just one team can come and play with the 60 day schedule .So how do you fit in 3 home series.It is not feasible.You could move the cricket to Cairns,Darwin in August,but that is not really a test centre is it?The board stands to lose making money if it holds it there.So in many ways a simplified fixture like that is ideal if all seasons are same,else it is not possible. The same holds good for England May-September which is 150 days at max.

  • jimmy on February 6, 2011, 8:00 GMT

    Good ideas Andrew, I completely agree with a standard format for all tours. But there are a few issues; 1. Being a summer sport, how do you fit three 2 month tours into one home summer?; 2. What about the Ashes? Reduced to 3 tests? Regardless, it is something that needs to be addressed, we simply don't get to play each of the teams often enough...I for one am a little sick of playing England and India, but I do enjoy the back-to-back home and away series concept we (Aus) have with S.Africa. There is also some merit in the 2 tiered system, or a 2 group stage play-off with group 1 being teams ranked 1,3,5,7 and group 2 being teams ranked 2,4,6,8.