By Chris Stocks
England will play 10 Tests matches against India in the space of nine months before their next away Ashes tour in 2021-22.
Fixtures released in the International Cricket Council’s new Future Tours Programme this week revealed a jam-packed year for England in 2021 that will also include a World T20 and 27 limited-overs matches against South Africa, Holland, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The revelation there will be another edition of the World T20 just a year after the 2020 tournament in Australia was a surprise, with India almost certain to host it. This news raises fears that the so-called ‘Big Three’ of England, India and Australia have designed schedules to maximise revenue rather than grow the game globally.
It is telling that despite a three-match ODI series against Holland at the start of the 2021 home summer, England do not have a single match in any format scheduled against Scotland, who memorably beat Eoin Morgan’s team in an ODI at Edinburgh earlier this month.
There was also confirmation that England will play their inaugural Test against Ireland at home next summer in a match that will be played over four days and will effectively act as a warm-up for the Ashes series that follows.
That series against Australia will be the first to count towards the World Test Championship, with the top two ranked country’s contesting a final at an as-yet undetermined venue in the summer of 2021.
The new FTP runs to the end of 2022 and India also play 12 Tests against Australia in that period, including two four-match series at home.
Afghanistan and Ireland gained Test status earlier this year but will not take part in the World Test Championship. The Afghans, though, do have a maiden Test against Australia scheduled for November 2020 as well as further Tests against Zimbabwe, Ireland and Bangladesh over the four-year FTP window.
West Indies (away) 3 matches
Ireland (home) 1 match
Australia (home) 5 matches
New Zealand (away) 2 matches
South Africa (away) 4 matches, two scheduled for Jan 2020
Sri Lanka (away) 2 matches
West Indies (home) 3 matches
Pakistan (home) 3 matches
India (away) 5 matches
India (home) 5 matches
Australia (away) 5 matches
West Indies (away) 2 matches
New Zealand (home) 3 matches
South Africa (home) 3 matches
Pakistan (away) 3 matches
England’s schedule, particularly in 2021, will increase concern about player burnout. In all, they will play 49 Tests from 2019 to 2022, including tours of the West Indies (twice), New Zealand, South Africa, India, Australia and Pakistan.
This is actually fewer Tests than they have played over the past four years, when 52 were scheduled, and is the result of the England & Wales Cricket Board’s decision to cut the number of home Tests per summer down from seven to six from next year.
Every one-day match will also count towards the 13-team men’s ODI league, with the top eight ranked nations gaining automatic qualification for the 2023 World Cup in India.
ICC chief executive Dave Richardson said: “The agreement of this FTP means we have clarity, certainty and most importantly context around bilateral cricket. The World Test Championship will get underway next year with the ODI league kicking off in 2020.
“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.”
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