Millionaires v part-timers shows T20 divide

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At the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, Indian Premier League millionaires will rub shoulders with struggling part-timers, illustrating the wealth gap opened up by cricket’s most contentious format.
On one hand will be wealthy Twenty20 stars such as India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir, and West Indian Chris Gayle, who have amassed considerable personal fortunes in the glitzy IPL. At the other end of the scale are part-time players from Ireland and the Netherlands, Zimbabwe and especially Afghanistan, whose captain Nawroz Mangal learned the game in a refugee camp.
India’s first match, against Afghanistan in Colombo on Wednesday, raises the prospect of an idolised, multi-millionaire team sharing facilities with players who grew up using home-made bats and balls.
It’s only nine years since 20-over cricket was first introduced in England, in a bid to attract more fans. The innovation was initially frowned upon by most countries, including the game’s economic powerhouse, India. But India’s unexpected victory in the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007 ushered in a sea-change that saw the launch of the flashy IPL a year later.
The IPL, where the world’s top players turn out for franchises owned by rich businessmen and Bollywood actors, transformed Twenty20 cricket into a widely watched, and lucrative, spectacle.
Leading players have cashed in — but the runaway success of the IPL and copy-cat Twenty20 leagues has also raised fears over the primacy of international cricket, especially the five-day Test matches. Unlike football, where FIFA designates international breaks to allow players to take leave of their clubs and represent their countries, cricketers are faced with a dilemma.
Indian stars such as Sachin Tendulkar and Dhoni are spared the choice since the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) does not schedule internationals during the IPL.
But players from other countries, such as out-of-favour England batsman Kevin Pietersen, man of the tournament at the last World Twenty20, do not have the same luxury.
Pietersen had problems with the England cricket board when he tried to bargain to be allowed to play a full IPL season instead of returning home early for international duties.
“I think it’s fair to say that his issues over being available for the entire IPL have changed his attitude,” said coach Andy Flower of Pietersen, who is out of the England squad after repeated run-ins with management.
Explosive opener Chris Gayle missed an entire year for the West Indies due to a conflict with his home board, but continued to rake in millions from the IPL and similar leagues.
Some boards such as New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, unable to pay their players top dollar, have tried to restrict international commitments during the IPL. The International Cricket Council argues that if it provided a window for the IPL, it would have to accommodate other domestic leagues as well.