It is tough being a women's cricketer at the international level.
Imagine representing your country at the highest level and not knowing when you play the next series or what the near future holds for you and the team.
However, after years of wilderness, it was a very happy Tuesday for the fans of women's cricket across the globe as the International Cricket Council finally announced the future Tour Program starting from May 2022 to April 2025.
In a statement by ICC General Manager of Cricket, Wasim Khan said, “This is a huge moment for the women’s game. This FTP not only lends certainty to future cricket tours but also sets the base for a structure that is sure to grow in the coming years.”
Well, it is indeed a massive moment in the history of women's cricket as the ICC is taking a lot more effort to ensure the stakeholders, and most importantly, the players are well aware of the tournaments that will be played in the coming years.
With over 300 games set to enthral the fans and some major ICC events set to hit our television sets, women's cricket is heading in the right direction amid the growing fanfare.
Here are some of the key talking points from the big reveal by the ICC and how we gauge the situation from our lenses of how women's cricket is shaping up with franchise cricket and high-voltage mega events.
Increase in Test matches
"I can’t really see women’s Test cricket evolving at any particular speed, and I don’t see it being any part of the landscape moving forward to any real extent at all,” said Greg Barclay, the ICC chair, earlier this year in an interview with BBC.
While the players strive for more Test matches, especially with the games going all the way down the wire in the recent past, the ICC has managed to feature seven Test matches in the current cycle.
England play the most number of games in the longest format, which is five, followed by Australia with four and South Africa and India with three and two respectively. One of the highlights of the plan was the standalone women's Ashes, which is scheduled for early 2025, just before the men's series.
While India played two away Tests last season against England and Australia, they are set to host them for one Test each in December next year.
It was never easy for the teams not knowing when the teams would set foot on the ground wearing their whites next, but whenever they did, it promised to be a blockbuster that the game needed more often.
And we are glad we have a bit of increase in the number of games because, like Shikha Pandey said, "If Test cricket is great, women's Test cricket is greater."
The return of Asia Cup
After a hiatus of four long years, the ICC has finally managed to find a window for the Asia Cup, which is scheduled for the first half of October this year.
While we still await the confirmation of the venue and the dates, it is a piece of welcome news for the teams, especially the Women in Blue, as they lost on the last ball in a riveting clash against Bangladesh in the summit clash at Kuala Lumpur in 2018.
However, a lot has changed in the last four years as far as India is concerned, as the emergence of youngsters in the squad has powered the team to be touted as one of the favourites whenever they enter any major competition.
Window for franchise leagues
Women's cricket is growing with the emergence of various franchise leagues across the globe, taking centre stage and creating a new pathway for women in sport.
The Women's Big Bash League and The Hundred being two prominent leagues that provide an ideal opportunity for domestic players to rub shoulders with international stalwarts whilst creating an impact.
With the BCCI set to follow the same and launch the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League in March 2023, franchise cricket across the globe is increasing, and the ICC has provided them with a window for their marquee project.
The Future Program has a gap of three months, from March 2023 to June 2023, which is a perfect time for the BCCI to plan the Women's IPL and have some of the best international players be a part of the changing dynamics in women's sport.
As a sport, women's cricket is stepping into a new era with the inaugural appearance in the Commonwealth Games and the future program, and it is fascinating to see the direction where the game is heading.