If ever there was any doubt that cricket is being captured by a greedy Big Three, the release of the Future Tours Programme by the International Cricket Council makes it abundantly clear.
Between 2023 and 2027, 777 international matches will be played by the various nations recognised as Full Members by the ICC. Of those, 173 will be Tests, but 121 of those will be played by just three countries – England (43), Australia (40) and India (38).
And that Big Three are not playing more Test cricket out of some altruistic concern for its future. It is simply because they are the only countries who can afford to play so much Test cricket, largely because they have screwed over the other nine Full Members of the ICC by hogging most of the financial returns of the game for themselves.
Because Tests are expensive to put on and don’t generate as much broadcasting revenue, the poorer nations are forced to play more white-ball cricket – ODIs and T20s.
And it is clear South Africa – whatever the wonderful impact they bring to international cricket – have now been relegated by the Big Three into the pauper category.
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Over the next five years, the Proteas will play just 28 Tests and only two of those will be three-Test series. So that means 11 two-match series, which are thoroughly underwhelming and unsatisfactory.
In terms of white-ball cricket, they will play 39 ODIs, the least of all, and 46 T20s. Only Zimbabwe and Ireland will play less international bilateral cricket in the next FTP, and that sums up South Africa’s standing in the international game – with the dogs trying to get scraps from the big table.
And that big table has become even more of a banquet because the number of international matches has actually increased in total across all formats.
The fact that India can pretty much do as they please is borne out by the IPL window being increased to cover April, May and June – months in which other countries now dare not schedule any international cricket, and they will not play Pakistan in any bilateral series.
And England get another bonus because the next three World Test Championship finals will all be played at Lord’s.