The BCCI is set to finalise what it calls a "balanced" schedule of bilateral commitments in cricket's new international calendar, one that will protect players' interests as well as board revenues. That schedule will be the focus of an ICC members' workshop in Singapore on December 7 and 8, called to finalise the details of a new Future Tours Programme (FTP) spanning 2019-23.
In the last two months, Indian players led by captain Virat Kohli have been open in their criticism of an increased workload. Kohli and MS Dhoni, have argued that for the team to perform better and consistently over longer periods, the players needed to have enough break in between commitments. After winning the Test series at home against Sri Lanka on Wednesday, Kohli once again stressed he was desperate for a break.
Since the start of the 2016-17 home season in September, India have played a total of 60 international matches across all three formats.
However, the BCCI, which is shepherded by Committee of Administrators (CoA), has decided to balance the player workload. "In the last one-and-a-half years, we have played mostly at home" a BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo. "In the next 18 months, we are going to play mainly away. But in the new FTP, we have kept a balance between home and away series every year. Secondly, there won't be longer tours with both long and short formats combined."
The new FTP will comprise the Test and the ODI Leagues, which commence in 2019 and 2020 respectively. In the Test League, every country plays six opponents home or away in a two-year window which will start immediately after the next 2019 World Cup.
Talks to sketch out a new schedule have been ongoing for a while now, and BCCI officials believe that the influence of their board on the eventual FTP will be clear soon. The Indian board has been busy discussing the finer points of the scheduling with a number of Full Members; in November, the board called ICC general manager of cricket, Geoff Allardice - who is overseeing the creation of the new calendar - to explain to him their thinking moving ahead.
Earlier this year, BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri met his counterparts from ECB and Cricket Australia (CA), Tom Harrison and James Sutherland, to discuss the scheduling ahead of first round of ICC meetings in Auckland. It was in Auckland in October where the ICC Board approved in principle the Test and ODI Leagues.
"The new FTP is a BCCI document," the official said. "BCCI has already put in what, who and when it wants to play, leaving the rest of the world to work around it."
According to the official, India will play longer Test series of three to five matches against Australia, England and South Africa and stick to the minimum two Tests against the rest of the members. "We have taken advantage of the fact that we have to play six countries in two years at home or away. The word 'or' is important because that shows we can balance the series."
Playing the top-ranked teams will also have a "positive impact" on broadcast rights for home series, which are up for renewal from April 2018. Considering India played a lot of international cricket at home in this rights cycle, the BCCI derived optimum income from broadcasting rights and sponsors. However, that will be slightly offset over the next 18 months when India start travelling overseas from January with tours to South Africa, England Australia and New Zealand. "We play the good teams more as it will have a positive impact on the media rights," the official said. "The wide fluctuations would not be there which can affect the revenues eventually. Balancing the needs of the players too has been addressed."
To protect its home season, the BCCI has split it over two windows: India will play at home between October-November and then host another opponent during February-March before the IPL. The BCCI also alerted the ICC that India will not play any international cricket 15 days prior to and after the IPL.
In a note to the its members - the state associations - the BCCI distributed an FTP proposal detailing the matches India will play between 2019-23. This will be presented at a special general body meeting on December 11. As per the table, India are listed to play 84 days of international cricket in 2019-20; 68 in 2020-21; 77 in 2021-22 and 47 in 2022-23. These matches only comprise the Test and ODI leagues and any further bilateral series India will engage in outside of the FTP. Importantly, this schedule does not include matches played in global ICC and Asian Cricket Council tournaments.
According to Vinod Rai, the CoA chairman, Kohli and the players have been made aware of this new schedule. In the past few months Rai, along with Johri, has met Kohli, Dhoni and India coach Ravi Shastri to discuss player compensation as well as the team management's needs. "We have made a presentation to the players where the number of days per year is mentioned clearly in the new FTP," Rai told ESPNcricnfo, and said Kohli and the rest had accepted the plans. "So the workload is manageable."
One significant point the players wanted was an end to long tours. Going forward the BCCI wants any bilateral tour to comprise only Tests, or only ODIs. Other requests made by players included not to have a single-match limited-overs series especially after a Test series. The players also wanted Twenty20 matches to be played before a Test series. "After the Tests, the players said there is no interest left," Rai said.