Creating space for their new T20 franchise league is the main reason behind South Africa's dearth of Test cricket
in the next Future Tours Programme
. South Africa play 28 Tests from 2023 to 2027 and no three-Test series in the 2023-2025 World Test Championship cycle, while overall they will play 113 international matches, the third-fewest after Ireland and Zimbabwe.
"We needed to find a balance between the new league and bilateral cricket," Pholetsi Moseki, CSA's CEO, told ESPNcricinfo. "We needed to create enough space so that we would not have international fixtures clashing with our new league."
CSA's league is set to begin in January 2023 and will be played in that month going forward. The six-team, 33-match event will start as soon as the annual New Year's Test is completed (usually around January 8) and will run until the first Sunday in February. All of South Africa's premier white-ball players are expected to be available, even at the cost of international fixtures. CSA has already shown its commitment to the league über alles
, opting for South Africa to forfeit three World Cup Super League ODIs
in Australia in January next year, leaving the national side at risk of not automatically qualifying for the 2023 event.
In the new FTP, South Africa have sacrificed Tests to make space for the league, which will be played in the prime summer months and leaves little room for internationals between its conclusion and the start of the IPL in mid-March. CSA has not scheduled any international cricket in the IPL window in keeping with its commitment to make its own players available for the IPL, whose relationship with South Africa has grown closer. All six teams in the yet-to-be-named CSA league have been bought by IPL team owners
. It is believed the league will bring millions of Rand into South African cricket, effectively allowing CSA to maintain its longevity as a business.
Despite South Africa's resurgence as a Test team - they are currently on top of the World Test Championship points table and have a good chance of making the 2023 final - the format is viewed as financially unsustainable, which is reflected in the new FTP. "We know that you need to play a minimum of two Tests in a series for the World Test Championship and so that's what we've done. We also have to be honest that hosting Tests costs us money," Moseki said.
South Africa host India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the 2023-2025 cycle, all of which are costly tours, including India. ESPNcricinfo understands that even though an India incoming tour is lucrative for South Africa, CSA earns a tenth of the money on a Test that it will earn for a white-ball match. Hence, the India series in the 2023-24 summer also includes three ODIs and three T20Is. The only Tests in which South Africa are paid a premium by broadcasters are against Australia and England, and they host both countries for three-Test series in 2026-27. They also welcome Bangladesh for two Tests in the 2025-27 cycle.
In total, South Africa will play 28 Tests in the 2023-2027 cycle, two fewer than the 30 they were scheduled to play in the 2019-2023 period (they ended up only playing 27 because the three-Test series against Australia was cancelled due to the Covid-19 situation). That's more Tests than Ireland (12), Zimbabwe (20), Afghanistan (21), Sri Lanka (25), West Indies (26) and Pakistan (27), but the gap between Afghanistan, for example, and South Africa is smaller than the gap between South Africa and India (38), Australia (40) and England (43).
Moseki understood that South African Test players and fans may not be entirely happy with the new FTP but explained that CSA had to make a practical decision. "It is sad that we don't play more Tests, especially for purists. We don't have enough Tests. But with the congestion of the calendar we had a balance and a schedule that makes sense, especially with the league in mind," he said. "We are not the BCCI - we don't have a clear calendar for our league and we have to work around that."
Moseki also said CSA would look to schedule more white-ball matches especially in 2027 as the ODI World Cup, which will be co-hosted in South Africa, draws closer. "The FTP is structured around Tests and members have discussions around the number of white-ball games they want to play as add-ons or standalone events," Moseki said. "We will still have some talks around that and we are hopeful we will have more matches."