ICC decides on Test championship schedule

Rob Forsaith
ICC decides on Test championship schedule

The International Cricket Council has settled on the schedule underpinning its new Test championship, with Australia to host India twice in the next three summers as they bid to qualify for the inaugural final in 2021.

The ICC has revamped its Future Tours Programme, seeking to add context to low-profile series by introducing a nine-team Test championship and 13-team ODI league.

At least two Tests are required to constitute an official championship series, while countries will contest three-match ODI series as part of the league that will shape the next World Cup qualification process.

The first Test championship final will take place midyear in 2021. England is set to host; a product of logistics more than a nod to the game's traditional home.

Lord's has long been floated as the likely venue, although this is yet to be confirmed.

"We like the idea, particularly if Australia qualifies, to host the final ... but the complexity of the program can make things challenging," Cricket Australia's outgoing chief executive James Sutherland told reporters.

"In most northern summers ... there's likely to be only two Test nations playing international cricket.

"Whereas in November ... it's quite possible that eight or 10 full-member countries are playing. You have to schedule those games in advance."

Discussions are ongoing regarding how Test championship points should be allocated.

Afghanistan have agreed to play a single Test in Australia during late 2020. The newcomers aren't part of the championship, with the match to serve as a warm-up for Australia's ensuing four-Test series against world No.1 India.

The Test championship will add more meaning to cricket. Pic: Getty

Virat Kohli's men are also arriving later this year for a four-Test series, but that contest won't count towards the new championship.

Australia's bid to reach the championship final, to be played as a one-off Test, will start when the ICC's new cycle begins with the 2019 Ashes.

Justin Langer's men will also feature in away Test series against South Africa and Bangladesh during the qualification period for the 2021 final.

Australia will host Pakistan and New Zealand in 2019-20, with the trans-Tasman rivalry to be part of the Boxing Day Test for the first time since 1987.

"Five Test matches an Australian summer will be the staple ... then we're going to play somewhere between eight and 12 white-ball matches each summer," Sutherland said, having been a driving force in the ICC overhaul.

"Six of those matches are typically going to be ODIs as part of the one-day league. The remainder will be T20s."

Australia's next Test tour of India, where they haven't won a series since 2004, won't come until October, 2022.

Langer has already identified ending the Indian drought as being a benchmark for his side.

"We will judge ourselves on whether we're a great cricket team if we beat India in India," Langer said earlier this year, describing a 2004 series win as the "Mount Everest moment' of his career.