Australia’s skewed cricket season is doubtful to be an outlier with win over South Africa and West Indies

January 9, 2023

It will be hard to find anyone looking back on the cricketing summer with much optimism.


Aussies were great, for sure.


Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, David Warner, Cam Green, and Alex Carey plunder runs to all corners of grounds throughout Australia.


Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland, and Green used cunning, pace, and venom to tenderize the opposition’s batters while Nathan Lyon continued to do Nathan Lyon things with the ball in hand.


The opposition was subpar and ill-prepared to handle such treatment so far from home, but there was a genuine sense that Australia was crushing them the entire time.


It won’t get any better soon, and that’s another catch.


Since South Africa’s innings-and-80-run defeat in Hobart during the second Test of their 2016 tour, Australia has played 34 Tests at home.


Australia has won the remaining 25 Tests during that time, while India has won four of them, drawn five, and lost five. Twenty-four of them were defeated by more than six wickets or 120 runs.


The fact that so few of the games have been close contests speaks volumes about the strength of this Australian Test team, but perhaps more importantly, it speaks volumes about the weakness of the visitors.


Australia will host the West Indies for two additional Tests and Pakistan for three Tests next summer.


Pity the Cricket Australia marketing team for that; they’ll need to develop some really creative campaigns to persuade people that these will be worthwhile to watch.


India visits these shores for five Test matches the following summer, and England returns for the Ashes the next year.


However, the issue is different from those shows.


Then, in July 2026, there will be a single Test match against Afghanistan. Later that year, New Zealand and Bangladesh will come for three and two Test matches, respectively, which a trip to India will separate in January.


Australia has a total of 44 Test matches scheduled through March 2027, according to the ICC Future Tours Program.


India plays 42 Tests during that period, with only England (45) playing more.


There is less Test cricket during that period for teams like South Africa, who arguably need all the match practice they can get.


In that time, the Proteas will play the same number of series—14—as Australia, but only 30 Tests.


South Africa’s only other series are two matches; their only three-Test series will be against Australia at home in September 2026.


Only one of South Africa’s 30 Test matches, a two-Test series in India in November 2025, will take place away from home. Of the 30 Tests South Africa plays, 10 of them are against one of the “big three” — India, England, or Australia.


14 Test matches will be played between Australia and India during that time.


Before the third Test in Sydney began, Dean Elgar stated, “the disappointment that we aren’t playing more Tests this year sits with many players.”


“We can’t make those decisions, though it would be nice if we could have a big say in them. The administrators feel we need to set something up to generate income.”


“We can probably add more Tests moving forward in a couple of years. “


South Africa will only play four Test matches in 2023, not counting the just-completed Sydney match. From February, Australia performs numerous times in India.


Not just South Africa is still looking for games, though.


Only 36 tests will be played by the world test champions New Zealand, exactly half of which will be against one of the big three.


On the other end of the spectrum, Ireland, a newcomer to Test cricket, will only play 14 matches, with just one of those matches being against one of the big three (against England in May of this year) and the other being a single match against New Zealand (at home in May of 2026).


Ireland’s captain Andrew Balbirnie lamented the absence of Test matches for his country since it became a full member on Twitter during the 2021/22 Ashes.


“Test cricket seems enjoyable. Seriously, anyone up for a game?” he wrote.


Since their match at Lord’s in 2019 against England, Ireland has not participated in a Test match.


When it was announced that Ireland would play a second Lord’s Test in June, before the Ashes, Balbirnie told the Belfast Telegraph: “Test cricket is without a doubt the pinnacle of our sport from the perspective of a player.”


“We are thrilled to be returning to play the red-ball game next year. As a relatively inexperienced team, we must win one of the four Test matches scheduled for 2023.”


“Multi-day cricket is the best setting to hone your skills, develop them, and test them. “


It’s common for the ICC’s newest full members, Ireland and Afghanistan, to not play many Test matches, especially against the top teams.


You could argue to their great detriment that India and Australia will each play just one Test against Afghanistan while completely ignoring Ireland.


“The Test we played [at Lord’s] in 2019 was a memorable occasion. Three days of sold-out events were witnessed, with the Irish fans’ boisterous and joyous atmosphere making the game especially unforgettable,” Balbirnie said.


“We later discovered that, outside of India and the Ashes, the TV audience for this Test opponent was among the highest the ECB had ever seen. “


The simple truth is that Test matches are a loss-making endeavor, and outside of the big three, playing lengthy series offers a slight advantage.


It is a simple fact of economics that only the big three teams regularly play series longer than two Tests.


In a bilateral series, teams play up to two Tests against the same opponent, except when they play India, England, or Australia.


The two Test series are the bare minimum required by the ICC to maintain the viability of the Test World Championship and keep Test cricket alive.


The long-term viability of the format will undoubtedly be questioned more and more as teams outside of the big three are deprived of meaningful matches outside of this box-ticking.

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