The current Future Tours Program from the ICC ends in May 2012 and it makes for interesting analysis. Overall the amount of tests played by the major test playing nations is fairly even over the next 28 months. There are, however, glaring inconsistencies within this program.
England (26 tests; 10 away and 16 at home), Australia (25 tests; 12 away and 13 at home), India (29 tests; 17 away and 12 at home) and South Africa (24 tests; 13 away and 11 at home) should and do play similar levels of test cricket til May 2012. West Indies and New Zealand, surprisingly in this author’s view, play 29 and 24 tests respectively (WI play 11 away/18 at home, NZ play 12 away/12 at home). The biggest surprise is Sri Lanka who play only 12 tests in the next 28 months; 9 away and 3 at home. The ICC may have listened to criticism of India and Sri Lanka playing each other too frequently as they do not compete in this period (they have played a series very recently, however). Nor does Sri Lanka play Australia; instead they have the unenviable task of travelling to Pakistan (likely neutral), England and South Africa. Very tough tours indeed. Perhaps they’ll have better luck against West Indies at home.
Granted the program needs to be looked at in the context of the whole schedule; ie prior to January 2010. Considering Bangladesh and Zimbabwe both play more tests in the next 28 months (19 and 16 respectively) it beggars belief that the Sri Lanka cricket board could tolerate such an exclusion. Even Pakistan, where terrorism mars all home series, play 26 tests in the same period. Of course how many are actually on Pakistan soil (scheduled to be 13) remains to be seen. We may have seen the last of Murali, Sangakkara and Jaywardene when Australia played Sri Lanka last.
The program contains several postponements and there will be more to come. One thing will not change, however, and that is Bangladesh’s improvement. While Zimbabwe is out of favour (no fault of the test team!) world cricket needs nations to stand up and Bangladesh are doing just that. Hopefully scares like that which they gave to India recently can be turned into test wins.
For Down the Wicket fans; Australia travels to New Zealand, Pakistan (in England), Bangladesh, South Africa and West Indies while hosting England, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and India.
As always the schedule is not concrete (are Zimbabwe playing at all currently?) but hopefully some balance is brought; at least for cricket fans in Sri Lanka.