Test cricket’s newest entrants Afghanistan and Ireland were excluded from the inaugural world Test championship as the ICC unveiled its Future Tours Programme (FTP) for the 2018-2023 period that will also include a 13-team ODI league.
The nine top-ranked sides will participate in the inaugural edition of the world Test championship which will run from 2019 to 2021. That means there is no place for Afghanistan and Ireland in the championship. However, the two teams will still get to play Test cricket outside the championship. In fact, the two teams will play 12 Tests each between 2019 and 2022.
The five-match Ashes Test series continues under the new championship cycle with Australia set to tour England in 2019 while the return series will be played in 2021-22.
The ODI league will form the qualification pathway for the World Cup. The 13-team ODI league includes the 12 Test playing nations and World Cricket League Championship winners Netherlands.
The idea behind the latest programme is to provide context to every bilateral series.
ICC chief executive Dave Richardson said: “The agreement of this FTP means we have clarity, certainty and most importantly context around bilateral cricket over the next five years.
“Bringing context to bilateral cricket is not a new challenge, but with the release of this FTP, our members have found a genuine solution that gives fans around the world the chance to engage regularly with international cricket that has meaning and the possibility of a global title at the end.”
An additional World Twenty20 in 2021 has been added to the calendar in place of the Champions Trophy and will be held immediately before England’s next Ashes tour of Australia.
The ICC board also confirmed Twenty20 international status will be given to all 104 members.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s men beat Ireland in the one-off Test at Dublin before squaring the two-match series against England at 1-1. They then completed their tour of the UK with comprehensive victories over Scotland in the two T20Is.
One of the key aspects of their success on the tour was the performance of the bowling unit with pace spearhead Mohammad Amir leading the line with aplomb. However, concerns had once again risen over the pacer’s fitness after his chronic knee injury surfaced during the Test matches with England.
With the 2019 World Cup in England on the horizon, a special plan will be charted out for Amir to ensure that he is fully fit for the global showdown.
“I am going to sit with Mohammad Amir and Inzamam-ul-Haq soon and we are going to map out a future for him. After our discussions, Inzamam will present the plan to the selection panel and then to the player,” the South African was quoted as saying.
“The fact is that we need all our bowlers firing when it’s time for the 2019 World Cup so that we are in a position to choose the best possible squad we can have for that tournament. We also want to make sure that those players are not tired, and ready to deliver their best performances over that period for us,” he added.
Amir had picked up 12 wickets in the three Tests against Ireland and England and sat out the final T20I against Scotland.
The 32-year-old senior leg-spinner missed Pakistan’s tour of Ireland, England and Scotland due to a hip injury with Shadab Khan taking his place in the side.
While doubts still remain over whether the Zimbabwe tour will go ahead due to the ongoing match fees and salary dispute between Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) and the country’s board, Pakistan are nevertheless preparing for it in earnest.
Along with Yasir Shah, Babar Azam, Rumman Raees and Imad Wasim will also be undergoing fitness tests.
Head coach Mickey Arthur and the team’s physiotherapist will be supervising the fitness tests of the four players at the NCA. The team is set to depart for Zimbabwe on June 28 where they will take on the hosts in a five-match ODI series which gets underway on July 22.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board will sit down with Arthur and chief national selector Inzamam-ul-Haq soon to decide the 25 players who will be awarded central contracts from July 1.
The board had earlier been awarding contracts to 35 players at a time but has decided to cut short the number for this year in a bid to improve the financial remunerations for the contracted players.