Gqeberha - South Africa can’t afford an FTP (Future Tours Programme) with as many Tests as those of the “Big Three” – Australia, England and India, says Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive Pholetsi Moseki.
The gap between the number of Tests played by Australia, England and India compared to other countries is massive. It is because of this gap that ex-administrators, players and fans have aired their frustrations over the FTP.
South Africa will play 28 Tests in the upcoming four-year cycle, which is 10 Tests fewer than India, 15 fewer than England and 12 fewer than Australia.
Moseki this week told IOL Sport there were reasons behind the make-up of the FTP from a South African standpoint. One of them was a lack of appetite for the longer format in the country.
“We just hosted the West Indies for Tests; you saw for yourself on TV, the grounds were totally empty, we were not even 10 or 20% full,” said Moseki.
“If you go to England or Australia, Test cricket is still supported, the stadiums are still full.”
Moseki said the cost of hosting Test matches was one of the reasons for South Africa’s significantly fewer Tests in the FTP. The support of fans in filling up stadiums also played a role.
On the other hand, white-ball cricket attracts people to the stadiums more than Test matches. The recently concluded One-Day International series in East London and Potchefstroom is a great example of why South Africa is perceived as a country that does not prefer Tests matches.
“A lot of people say we don’t play enough Tests, but they don’t even show up for the few Test matches that we have,” Moseki pointed out.
“Why aren’t cricket lovers coming to watch Tests? They fill up the stadiums for ODIs and T20Is, and the marketing is more or less the same.
“The only time Test cricket gets a full stadium in South Africa is when we play England, and even there it’s only the Barmy Army and that is quite frustrating.
“I love watching Test cricket, but unfortunately it’s not just about the emotions, there’s also finances that need to be covered. If it made financial sense to play three or more Tests against all opposition teams, then we’d be doing that.”
Since the start of the World Test Championship in 2019, South Africa has only played three or more Tests in a series against England, Australia and India, while they have played two-match series against all the other countries.
The Big Three bring more “bums on seats” and also lucrative broadcast deals, which makes hosting lengthy Test series profitable for South Africa.
This time round, the Proteas will play only two home Tests against India between December 2023 and January 2024. The white-ball leg of the tour includes three ODIs and three T20Is.
“If I speak to a broadcaster or a sponsor, they notice empty stadiums as well. To them, it’s clear South Africans love white-ball cricket more than Tests, so they will pay us more for white-ball games and less for Tests,” said Moseki.
“If India have only a month available to tour, in that month I have to make sure we play Tests, but also include white-ball cricket to balance the books.
“You’ve got limited calendar time available for us and the touring team, thus we have to make sure the games themselves make some sort of money for the entity. You have to take all these things into account going into formulating an FTP.”
The chief executive attended an ICC board meeting last weekend, where the FTP was discussed, among other topics. Moseki said every member could play as many Tests as they wanted because the ICC did not prevent them from doing so.
The ICC only required the boards to play at least two matches in every Test series that they confirmed as part of their FTP for the four-year cycle.
“[The] ICC doesn’t stop members themselves from playing more games. Obviously, those will be outside the Test Championship. It is something that over the next few years we’ll be working on, to see if we can get additional games if the calendar allows for it,” said Moseki.
“The ICC gives us opposition that we will be playing home and away over the cycle. The ICC basically says you have to play a minimum two Tests, but you can play as many as 10 Tests if you want against that opposition,” he said.
“Taking Test cricket to a healthy state in South Africa is the responsibility of both CSA and every cricket lover in the country.”