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.
India’s unexpected victory in the inaugural World Twenty20 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.
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.
For elite cricketers such as India’s Gambhir, there’s no question that international competition comes first. The opener justified his $2.4 million a year price tag for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
But the left-hander’s most cherished memories remain his two major triumphs for India: the 2007 World Twenty20 and the 50-over World Cup in 2011.
“Playing and doing well for your country is the ultimate high. It will be hard to think of anything bigger than the World Cup wins,” said Gambhir.
Club loyalties will also take a back seat during the 12-team, tournament starting on Tuesday.