All you need to know about ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP)
Cricket is on the cusp of pushing through a new international edifice. ICC's Future Tours Programme (FTP) is a schedule of international cricket tours which structure the programme of cricket for ICC’s full members with teams playing bilateral cricket home and away and organised by the host (as defined by ICC). FTP focuses on bilateral cricket. A World Test Championship (9+3) has been created along with a 13-team men’s ODI league that will act as a qualification pathway for the ICC Cricket World Cup.
What is the Modus Operandi?
4-year time period (FTP 2018-2023; calendar starts from August 2019) has been broken into channels for the dominant three formats of the game - Tests, ODIs, T20Is. Considerate planning has ensured separate niche for ICC events like the World Cup, World T20 and the newly formed World Test Finale among others.
What is the Test League about?
League will be played by the top 9 sides. It will be held in two-year blocks. Each side will play six series, with two at home one year and two away in the next. In the end, a Test final will be held between the two sides that finished top. Final is likely to be held in mid-2021, probably at a neutral venue.
Remember, not everyone will play each other, as any fair and competitive league aims for. India and Pakistan will be unlikely to play each other at all. But plenty to look forward to - the Ashes, the return of the Chappell-Hadley Trophy or trans-Tasman rivalry, Afghanistan's tour of Australia, Sri Lanka's back-to-back away tours to South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and a lot more.
What about ODIs and T20Is?
ODIs will now be played in a 13-team league format. The time period is again over two years. The reward will be a qualification for the World Cup. Each side will play eight out of 12 sides. The league will begin in May 2020. The T20I calendar will depend on bilateral commitments. Between Jan-Aug 2021, a regional qualification event in each of the five ICC regions shall take place.
Eventually, sides from these will qualify through to the World T20. Mostly, there will be points. In the Test league, it is being said that a formula will be worked out - the sides will get points for series results first, and the matches second; since the number of series is the same in a two-year block. Interestingly, in case of a draw in the final, the side ranked top in the league stages will win.
What is +3 in the WTC (9+3) scheme of things?
Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland - teams that will not be part of the Test league. Other nine teams will have to find space within their schedules to play against the discarded teams. The most likely way of that happening is actually during full member tours (say warm-up games against them).
Any catch-22 situation for the members?
Domestic T20 Leagues - the golden goose. T20 leagues are labelled hit and successful on the basis of their ability to lure away international cricketers among other factors. Authorities may have a tough time fitting the leagues into the jam-packed calendar. Right from PSL (Feb-March), then IPL, T20 blast, CPL, CSA League, BPL, BBL (Dec-Jan), they occupy pretty much the entire calendar.
Earlier, it was proposed to have fewer tests to accommodate the burgeoning T20 leagues. But given how the ICC FTP has shaped out, will we see a reversal of trend to traditional cricket formats? Not likely. But only time will tell.