In 2018-19, India became the first Asian team to win a Test series in Australia. Two years later, despite struggling with the absence of several key players, India achieved one of the greatest Test victories at the Gabba to beat Australia 2-1 once again. On both occasions, there were calls for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to be contested over five Tests, and that has now become a reality with the BCCI and CA inking in two such series in the next four years.
According to the near-final draft of the next ICC FTP, accessed by ESPNcricinfo, India will travel to Australia for five Tests in December and January 2024-25, and the return series will take place in India in early 2027. Both series are part of the next two World Test Championship cycles in 2023-25 and 2025-27 respectively.
India are also scheduled to play two 5-Test series against England – at home in early 2024 and away in 2025. The home series will be part of the 2023-25 WTC cycle, while the five Tests in England are part of the 2025-27 WTC cycle.
As per the draft FTP, India are scheduled to play 38 Tests, four fewer than England (42) and three fewer than Australia (41). Only two other countries have more than 30 Tests on their calendar: Bangladesh (34) and New Zealand (32).
According to the norm, the series that comprise the WTC cycles were agreed upon by the participating countries themselves. While the series (see graphics) for both WTC cycles have been locked, there is still room for adjustment in the overall number of matches and dates. As a result the ICC, which plays a facilitating role to help countries finalise the FTP, has identified several series in the draft FTP that need to be confirmed potentially by the end of the ICC annual conference on July 25 and 26 in Birmingham, England.
Other Test series – short and sweet
Apart from the series against Australia and England, India play more than two Tests in a bilateral contest only once: a three-Test series at home against New Zealand in October-November 2024. The rest of India’s WTC series are limited to two Tests.
One reason is to manage the workload of the Indian players, but the standard of the opposition is also a factor. Take South Africa for example, against whom India have often played three-Test series, but in the next FTP, India and South Africa play only two-Test series.
England and Australia, on the other hand, are scheduled to play several three-Test series over the next four years.
In their home summer, Australia play three-Test series against Pakistan in December 2023, South Africa in September-October 2026 ,followed by New Zealand between December and January 2027. Australia also play three Tests in the West Indies in June-July 2025.
England play six series comprising three Tests – three at home and three away. The home series are against West Indies (June-July 2024), New Zealand (June 2026) and Pakistan (August-September 2026). The away series comprise tours to Pakistan (October 2024), New Zealand (December 2024) and South Africa (December-January 2027).
Return of the ODI tri-series
The presence of the ODI Super League, a qualification pathway for the World Cup in the ICC’s current FTP, discouraged boards from scheduling other bilateral ODI series and tri-series. But with the Super League being removed from May 2023, there is more space to schedule bilateral ODI series and the tri-series is set for a comeback.
Pakistan are likely to host New Zealand and South Africa in a tri-series in February 2025, ahead of the Champions Trophy in the same country. A few months later, in June-July, Zimbabwe are scheduled to host New Zealand and South Africa for another tri-series. And in October-November 2026, Pakistan are hosting a tri-series involving Sri Lanka and a third country that is yet to be confirmed.
Five-T20I series on the rise
The commercial benefit of playing more T20 internationals has resulted in a massive spike of five-match T20I series proposed in the next FTP cycle. There are 15 series comprising five T20Is that have been slotted – nine of them involve India – but some are yet to be confirmed.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo