Chris Gayle had expressed his intention to play franchise-based cricket; the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) decided to drop him; while Gayle dominated Twenty20 leagues around the world — IPL included — the West Indians continued to play international cricket without him. In the end truce was called off and Gayle made a comeback.
Lasith Malinga has announced his retirement from Test cricket to concentrate on other formats of the sport. He has not looked back ever since, and while he has led Sri Lanka to the ICC World T20 title, the Sri Lankan attack with the red ball has looked a lot poorer without him.
The current Sri Lankan team has been hit by payment issues even after winning the ICC World T20 earlier this year. Their financial demands have not been met. Despite that, they did not make themselves available for the IPL, where they would have become hot property after ICC World T20. They chose to play for their country.
Sunil Narine, the main strike bowler of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), has been stuck in a dilemma of sorts: if he is willing to participating in the IPL final on June 1, 2014 he will have to miss out on the deadline for the preparatory camp for the Sabina Park Test against New Zealand.
These are only four of the situations that have arisen due to the spawning of franchise-based Twenty20 cricket around the world. Gayle clearly chose to stay dedicated to the format (though his current IPL form may change that); being at the receiving end of a choice, Malinga chose to cut down on the stress of five-day formats; his teammates, on the other hand, chose their country, honour, and fans’ hearts over moolah.
Narine is on the verge of taking another major decision: will he, perhaps the most crucial cog in the KKR franchise, opt for the final? Or will he try to make his way back to Test cricket as West Indies’ frontline spinner (one must also remember that Narine averages 24.33 against New Zealand and 137.67 against other nations), now that Shane Shillingford is out of contention for some time?
Kerry Packer divided the world of cricket into Test cricketers and mercenaries. However, Packer never wanted a permanent drift in the world of cricket. Once the deal between the Board and Channel 9 was sealed, the world of cricket was happy to see West Indians take over the reins and submit to them one by one.
It is not the same anymore. The drift has been created, and for good. As more such leagues will grow all over the world in the coming days, cricketers will be faced with such dilemmas more and more often. Will he choose easy money by bowling four-over spells over a two-month span? Or will he choose Test caps, the honour of playing for his country, and etching his name in the annals of history of the sport?
The chasm has already been created. It is widening with every passing day.