The PCB made considerable gains in its scheduling for a new Future Tours Programme (FTP) during a workshop held in Singapore earlier this month. Last week ESPNcricinfo reported on a version of the FTP that Full Members took into the workshop, held on December 7 and 8.
By the end of the meeting members produced an updated FTP in which there were minor adjustments to the total commitments of most members. The biggest gains from that meeting, however, were for the PCB. The earlier FTP showed 104 internationals scheduled for Pakistan between May 2019 and May 2023. The updated version has them playing 121 internationals - they have two Tests, five ODIs and 10 T20Is more than in the earlier FTP.
That total puts them on a more even footing with countries such as Australia (123), Bangladesh (124), South Africa (122) and New Zealand (119). It is not yet clear who the extra matches have been arranged against. The FTP will likely undergo further tweaks - though not significant ones - as members aim to present a final version at an ICC board meeting in February.
Not included in the PCB's totals is a bilateral arrangement with Cricket West Indies (CWI), which will mean more limited-overs games in the four-year period. The PCB is also thought to be involved in discussions with members for limited-overs tri-series in the next cycle.
Add to that Asia Cup matches (which are not included in the FTP total) plus the obligatory ICC tournaments and they could end up not far below the number of internationals they are scheduled to end with in the current FTP (from May 2014 to May 2019): 183. There is also the pending matter of 19 matches against India, from an earlier agreement, the fate of which rests on an ICC dispute resolution process.
The PCB will play 30 Tests in the new FTP, a number that officials say could have been higher had there not been three ICC tournaments in the cycle that run through the Pakistan home season, as well as an expanded six-week window for the Pakistan Super League (PSL). The World T20 in Australia in 2020 is scheduled for October-November that year, as is the Champions Trophy in India the following year (though neither tournament, traditionally, lasts that long), and the 2023 World Cup in India is across February-March. In fact, the latter will require a shifting of the PSL window for that year, likely to be brought forward.
In any case, the PCB has been eager to emphasise that its engagements in the new FTP will be about quality of contest rather than quantity. Opponents have been classified on the basis of the value they provide to a broadcast deal - by the PCB's working, 46% of their total home games in the next FTP will be against high-value opponents (Australia, South Africa, England and Bangladesh), 30% against mid-value opponents such as New Zealand and West Indies and the remaining against low-value teams such as Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan. Nearly half of Pakistan's away matches, it calculates, are against high-value opponents.
Once a version of the FTP is approved at the February meetings, it will go through a vote at the ICC's annual general meeting in June.
The four-year FTP is built around two cycles of a two-year Test league, with nine teams in it. Each team is required to play six series over two years, with the top-two sides meeting in a Test championship final in June 2021.
The calendar also includes a two-year ODI league of 13 teams, which will lead into qualification for the 2023 World Cup. The Test league starts with the new FTP in May 2019, but the ODI league begins the following year (because of pre-existing commitments between sides that run from the current FTP into the start of the new one).