The England and Wales Cricket Board is developing a proposal to host Test cricket between Pakistan and India on neutral ground in England.
It has been 15 years since the two countries last played a Test match against each other, and 10 since they last played a white-ball series. Since then, the fixture, which has the highest profile in world cricket, has taken place only when they have been drawn against each other in International Cricket Council tournaments.
The negotiations are described as a “work in progress” but the ECB board member Martin Darlow has made it clear to both the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Board of Control for Cricket in India that England are keen to host the matches if the opportunity arises.
There is a possibility that it may happen anyway if the two teams reach the World Test Championship final in 2023, which will be played at the Oval. But that is unlikely since India are fourth in the standings, and Pakistan fifth. There is also the 2025 WTC final at Lord’s. But the idea has also been discussed of arranging a one-off Test between the sides at Edgbaston, and, beyond that, even a three-Test series. The ECB’s offer is motivated by the belief it is important for the popularity of Test cricket around the world to get the two teams playing each other again.
England previously hosted Pakistan in both Test and T20 series against Australia in 2010, when they were unable to play in their own country after the terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team in 2009. The idea of reprising the arrangement fell away when relations between the ECB and PCB soured after the spot-fixing scandal that broke later that summer. After years of hard work to repair their reputation as an international venue, the PCB’s preference is for any potential India v Pakistan series to be played in one of the two countries involved. But political relations between their governments may make that unlikely in the near future.
India and Pakistan went 18 years without a Test in the 1960s and late 1970s, but the teams played against each other regularly in the decades afterwards. The last was a three‑Test series in India in 2007, which the hosts won 1-0. It has now been 15 years, and, unless plans change, this latest interregnum will end up as the longest gap between their fixtures since Pakistan won Test match status in 1952. The series is bigger than the Ashes, bigger, in fact, than almost any other bilateral event in world sport, and its resumption would be a fillip for Test cricket at a time when it is under more pressure than ever.
England’s Moeen Ali is a supporter of the idea. “That would be awesome, brilliant,” he said. “It’s a shame that they don’t play each other unless it’s a World Cup or an ICC event because they’re two great teams and two massive playing nations. With the viewing figures involved, it would be one of the biggest games, and it’s not been done for a very long time. It would be a great game because Pakistan have a really good bowling attack, and India have a great Test side. It would be really good.” His home city of Birmingham, which hosted fixtures between the teams during the Champions Trophy in 2013 and 2017, is seen as the obvious neutral venue.
The PCB is also looking to cooperate with other boards as it seeks to push back against new franchise cricket leagues, in particular the UAE’s ILT20, which launches in January. Several ICC member nations are alarmed by the league’s rules on overseas players, which allow as many as nine per team. Before the next ICC meeting in November, moves are under way to arrange a joint response in which several full member nations adopt a blanket position of denying their contracted players permission to take part in the competition.