Next summer, in a piece of scheduling that I've previously criticised, England and Australia will square off in a 7 game ODI series once the Ashes has concluded.
It's a daft piece of scheduling AFAIC, primarily because in my opinion it's the opposite to the schedule of 2005, where the ODI series whetted the appetite for the Test series which followed. Here, it seems to have been tacked on as an afterthought - not the best marketing for an ODI series I'd have thought.
However, it's also a pointless, and possibly dangerous exercise in my opinion because of the volume of cricket that will be undertaken before.
So far this winter/summer, Australia have been in India for a 4 test series, and hosted New Zealand and South Africa. Over the next month they have 2 more T20Is, 5 match ODI series against South Africa and New Zealand, before hoping on a plane to South Africa and squaring off again in a 3 Test, 1 T20, 5 ODI tour. Those Aussies contracted to the IPL will then jet off there, before hitting England for the World Twenty20, and the Ashes series which is an intense a tour as I've seen for the modern era - 2 tour matches, 2 back to back tests, a further tour game, 2 more back to back tests, another tour game, and the 5th and final test.
It's an immensely intense schedule, and there's the risk that players like Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee (if involved), Ricky Ponting etc. will be at breaking point. So why burden them with a further 7 ODIs, when it is almost inevitable that players will need rest or be unable to perform at 100% due to fatigue and niggles, thus shortchanging themselves, the opposition and the paying public. It's even crazier, because according to the future tours programme on cricinfo, the Aussies are due back in 2010 for 5 more ODIs!
We've already seen something similar happen with the visit of South Africa last summer, when after a tough opening to 2008, the Proteas had little more to give come the ODI series, and were spanked as a result.
So what's the solution? In my opinion, the cricketing world needs more split tours, similar to what we saw between Australia and India. Australia played a 7 ODI series in 2007, before returning this year to play the Test series. They'd surely benefit from doing the same next summer, where the South Africans could have taken their place instead of playing England last summer. This would be of benefit to the players - an ODI tour can be over in a matter of 2-3 weeks, as opposed to the 2 months that the Test leg of the Ashes tour takes up. It could also lead to higher quality cricket between fresher players, something which would both give the paying public value for money, and do wonders to improve the brand image of cricket.