"Is the World Twenty20 the gateway to mint money in the IPL?" Most players will reply to that question with a rhetoric: "I play for my country, the rest follows". Ask the same question in private, and most of those who sounded patriotic in public will whisper a 'Yes' on condition of anonymity. Sad but true.
A fat IPL cheque is 75 per cent the reason behind players' efforts in Twenty20 internationals these days. Call it the quick-money syndrome or the downside of corporate involvement – moolah rules, pushing the country a distant second when it comes to cricket's shortest format.
Corporate honchos, or the franchise owners, become the front-row selectors – pushing the national panel to seats behind them. It doesn't matter if you are Rohit Sharma or Ravindra Jadeja and you stumble in and out of ODI sides and fail to make the Test team. If you are hit in Twenty20s, you are worth millions for the IPL and leagues with similar DNAs in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Australia.
So does Twenty20 focus more on individuals than the country? Yes and no. A player wins the match first for himself then the country – it's a safe game that way. You did the country proud and you also caught the eye of a franchise owner, be it the IPL, BPL, SLPL or BBL.
In other case, a player may be part of a champion team, but if he hasn't contributed to that success notably, the smiles are 75 per cent fake – for he knows that an opportunity for an IPL price hike has gone a begging.
Ask Chris Gayle. Did he miss playing for the West Indies while at war with the WICB? The answer will be 'no' – in private, not in public. Sad but true.