Who will India’s cricketers play from 2003-2027? Analysing the IPL window, five Tests vs Aus, more T20Is and fewer ODIs

The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Wednesday announced the Men’s Future Tours Program (FTP) for India for the period 2023-2027. A slightly longer Indian Premier League window, which had been in the making for some time, is now officially confirmed, as are five friendlies against Australia. Also evident is the increased importance of bilateral T20Is and the shrinking scope for bilateral ODIs.

MORE: ICC announces future men’s tour program in Australia | The main talking points of Australia’s FTP

The IPL window

When the 2008 IPL began, England hosted New Zealand while Australia toured the West Indies for testing series. A decade and a half later, the IPL’s dominance of the game was underscored by a yawning gap in the global governing body’s schedule for the months of April and May and distinct sections of March and June.

The league expanded to 10 teams and 74 games were played in nine weeks that year. The number of games is expected to increase to 84 by 2025 and 94 by 2027. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had previously mentioned a two and a half month window and there seems to be more or less that has gotten as much from the ICC.

Only teams like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland and Pakistan, which have little or no involvement in the IPL, have planned a series or two in the Indian Summer IPL months.

However, even as Indian franchises seek to expand across the T20 league world – signing teams in South Africa, the USA and the proposed UAE leagues – it must be borne in mind that the BCCI are yet to move away from mutual participation Indian player must stir, a demand England had already made at the start of the IPL. The BCCI reiterated just days ago that Indian players wishing to take part in overseas T20 leagues must first turn their backs on playing cricket for India or in India.

Five for the Aussies

In another sign of the Big Three’s continued influence on the game, India will play five Test series against Australia, 2026-2027 at home and 2024-2025 away. England is the only team India has been involved with in five Test matches during those times. Indian crowds prefer limited-surplus cricket, but marquee Test competitions against Australia and England have their appeal.

The contrast to other teams is strong. There is only one other Test series with India – three home games against New Zealand in 2024-25 – to have more than two Tests this FTP period. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the West Indies were already in the two-test bracket with India, and even South Africa has now joined them.

Thus, 20 of India’s 38 scheduled Tests in the new FTP will be played against Australia and England, and just 18 against the remaining nine Test opponents. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe, where KL Rahul is currently leading India for an ODI tour after six years, and Ireland have no role at all in India’s new FTP schedule and Afghanistan have a lone test. Pakistan, of course, is completely absent given the political constraints.

T20 is up, ODI is down

Only West Indies (74) will play more bilateral T20Is than India (61) in this FTP, and only South Africa (39) will play fewer ODIs than India (42). In the past five years, India has been involved in up to six series of five or more ODIs. Not a single ODI series in their new FTP is longer than three games. The number of five-game bilateral T20I series for India will double from four in the last five years to eight in the new FTP.

These numbers are a key indicator of where the bilateral game is headed in the near future, even ignoring the existential threat that the T20 franchise circuit could pose over the long term. While ODI Cricket still promises the ultimate glory of the World Cup, bilateral competitions in this format continue to decline in importance.

An interesting sidelight on India’s schedule is a three-T20I away series against Afghanistan in September 2026, but as things stand, it’s more likely to be played in India itself or in the United Arab Emirates. It will also be interesting to see where the Champions Trophy, which is set to be hosted by Pakistan in February and March 2025, will ultimately actually be held as India is likely to be reluctant to visit its neighbours.

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