ICC set to unveil first ever Women’s Cricket Future Tours Programme

The first-ever Future Tours Program (FTP) for women is now a reality and will be made public soon, said ICC chief executive officer Geoff Allardice. The scheme, elaborated by the Member States, covers a period of three years between 2022-25.

While Allardice has not disclosed details about the FTP, ESPNcricinfo has learned that teams will primarily play three-match ODI series, which will be part of the Women’s Championships leading to qualification for the 2025 ODI World Cup. possibly, clubbed a five-match T20I series to round out ODI tours. Teams can also look forward to preparatory matches ahead of the global tournaments.

“The FTP for women is being published,” said Allardice from Birmingham, where the ICC’s annual conference ended on Tuesday. “It’s the first time we have a long-term plan for women’s TV shows that can give broadcasters and fans certainty about who’s playing who and at what time of year.

“It is structured around the ICC Women’s Championships through 2022-25 with a build-up to the next World Cup to be held in India.”

Women’s cricket players and supporters have long demanded more matches and regularity in the schedule. But with a lack of support from broadcasters in the past, cricket boards have not always been receptive.

But that all changed on July 23, 2017. Since the ECB and ICC successfully hosted the 2017 ODI World Championship, which culminated with host nation England leading India by nine runs in the final to a sold-out crowd at Lord’s, women’s cricket has gained better support from various stakeholders and found, above all, that it was an extremely lucrative business.
Another massive crowd was seen at the 2020 T20 World Cup, held in Australia, with the tournament final played on International Women’s Day, attracting over 85,000 fans to the MCG, the largest live audience at a women’s cricket match.

With a plethora of talent available, the women’s game is also branching out into T20 leagues. Australia’s Women’s Big Bash (WBBL) led the way with 59 games per season – 56 league games followed by two semi-finals and the final. The Kia Super League, which started in England in 2016, had four very successful seasons before giving way to the Hundred in 2021.

Held as an exhibition event since 2018, the Women’s T20 Challenge is likely to evolve into a full Women’s IPL from 2023 onwards. New Zealand expanded their Super Smash competition from 16 matches per season to 30 league matches, followed by the 2017-18 knockouts. They have also broken new ground by rewarding all cricketers equally regardless of gender. Next month, Cricket West Indies will lead a three-team women’s CPL.

Allardice said some of the female cricket captains, whom he met in Birmingham on Tuesday during an ICC-hosted panel discussion, said they were positive about the future of the sport. “The players commented that their schedules were definitely a lot busier than they were a few years ago. As you’ll see several domestic (T20) leagues getting stronger in the women’s game as well, you’ll find a very, very solid cricket calendar for the international women’s teams the coming years.”

Despite all the growth in limited-player cricket, women’s tests remain an “optional” product, according to a CEO from a Full Member country who sits on the chief executives committee of the ICC, which is responsible for devising the FTP.

While England and Australia have had plenty of chances to meet in the longest format thanks to the legend of the Ashes, India, South Africa and – surprise, the only other women’s teams to have played test cricket in the past 15 years – are surprise – the Netherlands.
There have been only 10 women’s tests since 2014, but since 2017 they have all ended in draws, sparking outrage over why these games couldn’t be played in five days instead of the existing four. Recently, talk about BBC’s Test Match SpecialICC President Greg Barclay supported the call for five-day Tests, but at the same time caused controversy by saying: “I can’t really see Women’s Test cricket developing at any rate”.

With input from S Sudarshananwho is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo

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