Australia play nearly half their Tests against England and India – to save the game, that needs to change
Cricket is globally raking in way more money than ever before and that should mean there is cash to splash to level the playing field for the poorer nations lacking in resources.
But the rich are getting richer, the poor get the picture and are giving up on Test cricket to focus on T20’s more lucrative revenue streams.
And Australia have been complicit in perpetuating the Big Three power base they share with India and England to the detriment of the other ICC full member nations, which has hampered the sport’s attempts to spread its footprint to new corners of the globe.
Since the turn of the century, Australia have played over 44 per cent of all Tests against England and India and that percentage is only likely to rise in the future as South Africa and the West Indies seemingly fall by the wayside while the other nations get short shrift when it comes to fixturing.
Of the 49 Tests that Australia have been earmarked to play in the 2023-27 ICC Future Tours Programme, 24 are against England or India.
If the Australians truly want greater competition from all Test-playing nations, then the world champions need to help the lower-ranked countries by playing them more often.
To their credit, they have not been homebodies, playing just under half of their matches on foreign soil.
But they have not hosted a Test against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe in more than two decades, Sri Lanka have played just nine Tests over four tours in the past 28 years and newcomers Ireland are yet to face Australia in a five-day affair despite being granted full member status six years ago.
Cricket Australia has boycotted all bilateral series against Afghanistan due to the ruling Taliban government’s treatment of women although they have fulfilled their obligations to play against them in ICC tournament matches.
For the remaining three years of the current Future Tours Programme, the Australian men’s side is scheduled to play a three-match series of T20s against Afghanistan on neutral territory later this year but that is extremely unlikely to take place.
On the Test horizon, after Australia polishes off the West Indies at the Gabba this week, they have two matches in New Zealand before hosting India next summer.
They will jet off for two-match tours of Sri Lanka and the West Indies next year before hosting the Ashes.
Their remaining Test commitments on the FTP rundown are a one-off affair against Afghanistan in the winter of 2026, followed by a three-match tour of South Africa, four at home versus New Zealand with a 250th anniversary late-summer MCG match against England, a five-match tour of India and two games in Australia against Bangladesh in March of 2027.
Cricket Australia launched a multicultural action plan last month to attract more South Asian players at the grassroots level – one way to strengthen this growing market’s affinity with the sport would be to host the likes of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan more often.
Team by team, here is how Australia have divvied up their Test matches since the start of 2000.
Australia’s Tests this century
TestsIn AustraliaAway/NeutralEngland653035India512526South Africa361818West Indies291712Pakistan261412New Zealand251510Sri Lanka20911Bangladesh624Zimbabwe220ICC World XI110Ireland000Afghanistan000Total261133128 (10 neutral)
England – 65 Tests
No surprise here that the old enemy is the team that Australia have played the most. It is one of the great rivalries in world sport and the two nations managed to sneak in an extra series into the usual four-yearly cycle in the past decade to avoid a clash with Australia hosting the 2015 ODI World Cup. Well, that’s the official reason anyway – would it be cynical to suggest the two countries just wanted to jam in another money-spinning series into their schedule?
India – 51 Tests
An equal split of matches between the two nations with last year’s World Test Championship in London the anomaly. The next two clashes will be five-Test series, which will basically be an unofficial playoff for global bragging rights. Cricket Australia has strengthened its union with the BCCI more and more over the past couple of decades with the number of contests against India skyrocketing in all three men’s formats, and women’s cricket.
South Africa – 36 Tests
This traditional rivalry faces an uncertain future with the Proteas prioritising their T20 league over Test scheduling and the team cutting back their five-day fixtures in the FTP.
West Indies – 29 Tests
Australia have not played a Test in the Caribbean since 2015 and will finally break that drought next year. The Windies have been to these shores three times since then for Test series. Hosting the big three nations has always been a crucial component of the West Indies’ finances so it’s no surprise they are heavily backing their Caribbean Premier League as a more reliable source of income.
Pakistan – 26 Tests
There have been security issues for much of this century which has meant neutral nations have been used on nine occasions instead of Pakistan. CA’s bigwigs recently announced plans to form a stronger alliance with Pakistan but there are no Tests scheduled for the next three years.
New Zealand – 25 Tests
Australia have failed to make the most of this rivalry in recent times, particularly during a period where the Black Caps were a pretty bloody good team – they did win the inaugural World Test Championship in 2021. And yet, the Aussies have not headed to the Land of the Long White Cloud for a Test since 2016, a drought which will thankfully end in the coming weeks. Reciprocal home and away tours with our nearest Test cricketing neighbours in a four-yearly cycle should be hard-baked into Australia’s calendar.
Sri Lanka – 20 Tests
After the Sri Lankans came to Australia for their first Test in the late 1980s, they played five more in less than a decade. But since that infamous 1995-96 series when Muttiah Muralitharan was no-balled for throwing, the Aussies have hosted their fellow island nation in just nine matches. Sri Lanka haven’t been back since their 2019 two-match series and have not been listed to return in the current FTP cycle so it will be at least eight years between visits.
Bangladesh – 6 Tests
After hosting Bangladesh in the Top End in 2003, they have not been back since. It will be close to a quarter of a century between tours Down Under when they return in March 2027. Although there have been some security risks, since Jason Gillespie’s improbable double-hundred at Chattogram in 2006, the Aussies have only gone through with one more two-Test tour in 2017.
Ireland – 0 Tests
Since they played their first Test in 2018, the Irish have played just seven all up – England have played them a couple of times as warm-up fixtures for the Ashes but India and Australia are yet to give them a game. The Aussies are taking them on in four white-ball matches as part of their September tour of the UK this year so hopefully that is a precursor to red-ball fixtures down the track.
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Afghanistan – 0 Tests
They have also played a meagre seven Tests since gaining admission alongside Ireland with just one match – their inaugural fixture against India – against one of the Big Three. Australia were due to host Afghanistan in Hobart in 2021 but CA cancelled the match a couple of months beforehand after the Taliban swept to power and banned cricket for female players. A 2026 tour by Afghanistan to Australia for a Test and three T20s looks unlikely to proceed.