New schedule relief for Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Cricket's strained finances are headed for significant relief, thanks to the stream of incoming tours from cricket's Big Three prescribed by the latest draft of the FTP, which has been seen by ESPNcricinfo.
The schedule has set down two full tours apiece from India, Australia and South Africa between 2016 and 2022, all of which include three Tests and at least three ODIs. If adhered to, this schedule is a meaningful victory for SLC, which was in danger of being cold-shouldered by the Big Three, following SLC's resistance to the ICC shakeup in January and February.
The FTP also sets down a four-Test series against South Africa in 2020, which would be Sri Lanka's first ever series to exceed three Tests. One of the most puzzling quirks of the schedule, however, is that Sri Lanka will visit South Africa four times between 2016 and early 2021, yet South Africa are set to play only one full tour in Sri Lanka during that time. "There are reasons for that, but we can't reveal them at the moment," SLC's cricket operations manager said of the imbalance. Sri Lanka's away schedule is, at this stage, significantly busier than their home agenda.
In addition to two reciprocal away tours to each of the Big Three nations, Sri Lanka will also have two home-and-away arrangements with Pakistan and Zimbabwe, between now and 2023. There one away tour to the West Indies and two at home, three away tours to New Zealand and one at home.* There is also one away tour only, with Bangladesh.
SLC's debt with the Bank of Ceylon currently stands at around USD $6.5 million, secretary Nuski Mohamed said, with the board having tightened their finances since their 2011 blowout. "Sometime next year we plan to completely settle that amount, and we have the ability to do that," Mohamed said, having taken stock of the new FTP. However, in addition to the debt to the bank, there is also a stadium debt of close to 3 billion rupees (approx. USD $23 million), which the board hopes various arms of the Sri Lanka government will absorb. The government, however, has so far made no indication it is willing to do so.
SLC secretary Nishantha Ranatunga, meanwhile, said the new FTP cycle is expected to more than double SLC's income from the last eight years. "The present formula of the FTP benefits us. I think the SLC, or to be more precise, Sri Lanka as a whole has gained," Ranatunga told Sunday Times. "During the last Future Tours Programme, Sri Lanka cricket's income stood at about US$ 45 million. But our anticipated income for this FTP stands at around US$ 95-100 million. This means our cricket will be in a stronger position."
Among the other highlights of the latest version of the FTP is a probable Boxing Day Test in Australia in 2022, with the last one having been played at the end of 2012. There is one tour to Australia that precedes that series, but India will have the showpiece Australia tour in 2018/19, with Sri Lanka set to play only two Tests, following India's visit. Sri Lanka are also set to visit England for a three-Test series in early summer 2016, with a home series against Australia to follow directly after.
That India's full tour of Sri Lanka in 2017 will go ahead as planned is also a relief for SLC, which has made that tour a centrepiece of their broadcast contract with Ten Sports. Sri Lanka are set to visit India for three Tests in mid-2015 and again in 2018.
Sri Lanka may also spend successive southern-hemisphere summers in New Zealand, with another two-Test series scheduled for 2015/16, to follow the one confirmed for the end of this year.
Member nations have been told to sign their bilateral agreements by the next ICC Board meeting in October in order to firmly establish that FTP is both "binding and bankable".
*There is only one inbound tour from New Zealand in the proposed FTP
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando