International cricket matches are played between teams representing their nations, normally organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The main forms are Test matches, One-Day matches and Twenty20 matches.
Most games are played as parts of ‘tours’, when one nation travels to another for a number of weeks or months, and plays a number of matches of various sorts against the host nation. The ICC also organises competitions that are for several countries at once, including the Cricket World Cup & ICC T20 World Cup.
Main page: Category:International cricket tours
Most Test, One-Day and Twenty20 matches take place in the form of “tours”. In a tour, one nation travels to another and plays warm-up matches, which may be first-class matches, against domestic teams such as county or state teams, a series of Test matches against the host nation, and either a series of One-Day (ODi) and T20 matches against the host nation or a tournament involving the host nation and another touring nation. Tours may include Test, ODI and T20I matches, or just one or two of these formats.
Test series can last from two to six matches, but some tours consist of only a single Test. Six-match series were common in the 1970s and early 1980s, with the last six-match series to date taking place in 1997–98 between the West Indies and England. Ashes Test series in England were six-match affairs between 1981 and 1997, but Australia reverted to five matches in its home series from 1982–83. The most important series last four or five matches, while the less important ones last two to three matches. Sometimes, a perpetual trophy is awarded to the winning team. Perpetual trophies include:
- The Ashes (England–Australia) is the most famous perpetual trophy.
- Frank Worrell Trophy (Australia–West Indies)
- Trans-Tasman Trophy (Australia–New Zealand Test series)
- Chappell–Hadlee Trophy (Australia–New Zealand ODI series)
- Border-Gavaskar Trophy (Australia–India)
- Wisden Trophy (England–West Indies)
- Warne–Muralidaran Trophy (Australia–Sri Lanka)
- Basil D’Oliveira Trophy (England–South Africa)
- Pataudi Trophy (England–India Test Matches played in England)
- Sir Vivian Richards Trophy (South Africa–West Indies)
- Sobers–Tissera Trophy (West Indies–Sri Lanka)
- Anthony de Mello Trophy (England–India Test Matches played in India)
- Freedom Trophy (India–South Africa)
- Ganguly-Durjoy Trophy (India–Bangladesh Test series)
- Clive Lloyd Trophy (West Indies–Zimbabwe)
One-day series generally last from three to seven matches. T20 series last from one to three matches.
Tours may include a multi-team one-day tournament, often referred to as a “triangular” or “quadrangular” tournament. Teams play a round-robin format, often with teams playing each other twice. Points are awarded for wins, ties and no results, and some tournaments also award bonus points based on the margin of victory. There may be a final match played between the two teams with the most points from the round-robin stage.
ICC Future Tours Programme
Main article: ICC Future Tours Programme
In 2001 the ICC decided to create a plan designed to make all ICC full member countries play each other for Test cricket over a period of ten years (known as the ICC Ten Year Plan). This was approved in February 2001 by the ICC member countries. Starting from 2002 and running until 2011, it ensured that each Test country played the other nine home and away over a period of ten years, in addition to any matches the individual cricket boards organised on their own. Thus, India and Pakistan played 12 ODIs and 6 Tests against each other in their respective countries (not including neutral ground ODI tournaments such as the Asia Cup) from 2004 to April 2005, and played a further series of 3 Tests and 5 ODIs in the winter of 2006. However, because of the rigorous schedule of the Ten Year Plan, there was hardly any time left over to schedule other series, and there were voices criticising the amount of international cricket that is played, with the risk of injury and player burnout as reasons for why this amount should be reduced. The ICC defended their policy, citing the number of international players in English county cricket as a sign that there was not too much cricket for the players.
Despite criticism of its original Ten Year Plan, the ICC created an ICC Future Tours Programme (or FTP for short). In the same way as for the Ten Year Plan, this is a schedule of international cricket tours which structure the programme of cricket for ICC full members, with an objective of each team playing each other at least once at home and once away over a period of 10 years. If the cricket boards of two individual countries reach an agreement, they can play more than two series. If a team doesn’t want to travel to a particular country for a bilateral series due to security reasons, then, by the mutual agreement of the respective boards, that series can be shifted to a neutral venue or another country with appropriate facilities, such as in the United Arab Emirates. Recently, the Pakistan Cricket Team has played many of their home bilateral series on Emirati soil.