Cricket’s biggest draw, the India-Pakistan bilateral series, is not expected to be part of ICC’s recently launched Test championship that is set to start after the 2019 World Cup. With no clarity on the Indian government giving the BCCI the go ahead to play with its neighbours, the ICC, it is learnt, is not expected to slot any India-Pakistan Test series in the Future Tours Programme (FTP) draft that it is working on. The BCCI had explained their stand vis-à-vis playing Pakistan in the ICC meeting in Auckland earlier this month.
The format of the Test championship has nine teams playing six series over the two-year period — three each home and away — with each series having a minimum of two Tests and a maximum of five.
The top two teams will contest a play-off final to determine the Test champions in England in June 2021. In case, India and Pakistan do make it to the final, the chance of the two arch rival playing the title contest are high since that would be seen as an ICC event. Over the years, India has continued to play Pakistan in ICC events despite the bilateral impasse. “As per the Test championship draft, it says, a Test team has to play with six Test playing nations in four year cycle. So India can play with Australia, England, South Africa, West Indies, Sri Lanka and New Zealand in Test championship cycle. It leaves no window for us with Pakistan. The board can’t do anything other than requesting Indian government. The day government gives clearance we are ready to play. At the moment India will not play Pakistan in Test championship,” a top BCCI official told The Indian Express.
It is learnt that PCB wanted India to play 24 games in this cycle but the BCCI declined stating the issue is not in their hands. The board has also ruled out series at neutral venues with Pakistan. At the same time they have agreed to play against Pakistan in any of the ICC tournaments. However, the Indian board is looking at the new Test championship as the model of Big Three where India, England and Australia would decide whom to play in their cricketing calendar. It remains to be seen how this plays out in reality. The ICC also approved the trial of four-day Tests if both sides agree but all Test championship matches will be five-day contests.