Johannesburg — South Africa will play just two three-match Test series after the tour to Australia later this year, with the new Future Tours Programme, illustrating just what a big emphasis there will be for the Proteas on the white-ball formats.
The Australia series that starts in December will be the last featuring three Tests that SA will play for three-and-a-half years. In between SA will play 10 Test series of two matches, including a home series against India in 2023-24.
The Proteas will be play in Australia and England in three-match series on home soil in 2026-27, with two matches against Bangladesh sandwiched between those — a veritable feats of Test cricket compared to the rest of the schedule over the next three-and-a-half years.
The announcement of the FTP, a result of collective talks between all of its Full Members overseen by the ICC, sees the Proteas play a total of 30 Tests, after next year’s series against Australia for the period ending in March 2027.
Over the same period they will play 52 T20s and 44 one-dasy internationals— outside of World Cup events — a reflection of how the international game is changing. Windows have been left on the calendar for the IPL, with virtually no international cricket being scheduled for the three months in which that competition, which will be expanding in the next few years, will be played.
Windows will also be created for England’s Hundred competition and the Australian T20 competition — the Big Bash League. The latter is played at the same time as the newly-created Cricket SA T20 tournament, that will be played for the first time in January.
It means of course a dilution for Test cricket. Twenty one years ago, SA and the West Indies, still fought it out in Tests series that lasted five matches, it was the same with England. Even as recently as the 2019-20 season the Proteas and England played in a four-match Test series.
But for countries like SA, who aren’t in the “big three” — Australia, India and England — the switch in emphasis away from the Test format, is very much a reflection of the financial state of the international game. India and Australia, have extended the Tests series between their two teams, with series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, going to be contested over five matches — the first of those will be in Australia in November 2024, with India then hosting in 2027.
CSA makes more money from the broadcast of one T20 against India, than it would make from playing a full three-match Test series against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies combined.
It means having to hold on for India to pop onto the schedule, and fund the majority of cricket’s programmes from the money earned when that tour happens. That isn’t a sustainable business model and the creation of the T20 competition is vital to the future of the sport in SA.
Broadcaster SuperSport has already invested nearly $90million into the venture, while the owners of the six franchises — which all own teams in the IPL — poured in about $150m to purchase the teams.