‘The ICC Future Tours Programme aims to provide a structured programme of cricket for Full Member countries, with an objective of each team playing each other once at home and once away’ – this is what the official website of the International Cricket Council claims with regard to its Future Tours Programme (FTP). However in reality, although they might never admit, the ICC more often than not is just a gutless body trying to please cash-rich India at every possible opportunity.
If the ICC had any real control over world cricket, then the FTP should have been adhered to strictly by all member nations. But hypocrisy has been the hallmark of the ICC for a long time now, especially ever since the monster called IPL began to destroy world cricket. The FTP has gone for a toss, and it exists only on paper. Sample this – Sri Lanka were scheduled to host current champions South Africa for a three-Test series in July-August 2013. A few days ago the news broke out that Sri Lanka are looking to postpone the series by a year, so that it does not clash with a tri-nation series in the West Indies (the third team being India) and later the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL). The Sri Lankan board are all too keen to get rid of the Tests, but they have not tampered with the limited-overs leg of the same series.
Sri Lanka have been the worst offenders when it comes to disrespecting Test cricket. Over the last few years, we have seen where Sri Lanka’s true priorities lie. They care two hoots about Test cricket. The proposed postponement of the South Africa series is not the first time Sri Lanka have treated the highest form of the game shabbily. In fact, the tri-series in the West Indies mentioned above has itself replaced the originally scheduled Test series between hosts West Indies and Sri Lanka.
The shameless cancelling of this series was downright pathetic and disgusting. True, Sri Lanka’s board is having financial trouble but that does not mean it needs to suck up to the BCCI so much that it affects their Test cricket. Naturally, Sri Lanka realised that a Test tour of the West Indies will not bring enough moolah. So they did what they have been doing repeatedly over the last few years – scrap the Tests, invite India over (although this time at a neutral venue), play a few meaningless ODI’s and subject the fans to torture.
There must be something really exciting about India v Sri Lanka one-day internationals which I have not been able to find out. Do the organisers really think that fans find Lasith Malinga bowling to Virat Kohli in coloured clothing is the most pleasurable experience a fan can get? These two teams have played a staggering 42 ODIs in the last 5 years, and they feel the need for more! Why, the recent series between the two teams in Sri Lanka was also a replacement for a Test series. If Sri Lanka is not interested in playing Tests, then surely there is Ireland waiting in the wings – at least they will be proud of being a Full Member country.
Naturally the ICC, as always, has chosen to be a mute spectator even as Sri Lanka mindlessly go on a cricket-killing rampage, because the ICC knows that whenever India plays, the money will flow. Whatever happened to the ‘structured programme’ and the promises to protect the ‘highest form of the game?’ If there was an annual award for the biggest hypocrites, then the ICC would have been the recipients of it for many years running. Earlier Test series were getting reduced, now there are being openly cancelled. I seriously doubt whether the Test Championship will ever find the light of the day (it is now scheduled for 2017 instead of the earlier 2013).
With T20 leagues sprouting all over the world, this mickey-mouse form of the game has now begun to dictate the calendar. I wonder whether even die-hard fans of ODIs and T20s will be able to lap up the ridiculously relentless barrage of limited-overs games being thrown at them. But telling that to the ICC will be futile, because it somehow feels that IPL and India v Sri Lanka ODI’s are the purest form of the game. The FTP is nothing but a joke that the powers-that-be are cruelly playing on true fans of the game.