The International Cricket Council (ICC) has unveiled its latest Future Tours Programme (FTP) that features the much-awaited Test Championship and a new ODI league with 13 teams.
The programme will see all bilateral series contribute to the rankings of teams, and ultimately who makes the cut for the final and the 50 over World Cup. The ICC said that they would suspend the Test Championship and the ODI league a year prior to the World Cup so that teams can play more games as preparation for the flagship event.
As part of both the ODI league and the Test Championship, each bilateral series will consist of three ODI games and/or three test matches. In the year preceding the World Cup, teams can play four or five-match series also should they choose to.
The agreement of this FTP means we have clarity, certainty and most importantly context around bilateral cricket over the next five years." ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said.
"Bringing context to bilateral cricket is not a new challenge, but with the release of this FTP, our members have found a genuine solution that gives fans around the world the chance to engage regularly with international cricket that has meaning and the possibility of a global title at the end," Richardson added.
The Test Championship
The FTP for the period of 2018-2023 will see a Test Championship where nine top-ranked test playing nations play each other in bilateral series both at home and away, over two two-year cycles, starting June 2019.
The ICC has also said it will preserve the five-match Ashes tests under the Test Championship, with Australia slated to tour England in 2019 and host a return series in 2021-22.
Though a venue for the final of the Test Championship is yet to be decided. While most members agree it should be hosted by England in July 2021, the BCCI wants to see the final hosted by the table-toppers at the cut-off date (March 2021).
The ICC is yet to take a call on the decision but will have to do so at the earliest since the Test Championship, as an ICC event will mean that broadcasting rights rest with the governing body.
ODI's new league
The FTP also showcased plans for an ODI league, which would see all the 12 test playing nations, plus World Cricket League champions the Netherlands play each other in a three-match bilateral series. The top eight sides at the end of the league will earn automatic qualification for the ICC World Cup, with the other spots decided through the World Cup Qualifiers. The ODI league will begin in 2020 and run up to 2022.
Under the new FTP, the Indian team is the only side to play a five-match test series (apart from The Ashes) when they tour England. The team is set to host 102 international games at home, with every test nation barring Ireland and Pakistan to tour before May 2023.
With the away games, India will play 200 games, the most by any side during the cycle.