New Delhi: A Sri Lanka cricket board demand that national players involved in the Indian Premier League (IPL) return to prepare for an England tour has reopened the long-running club versus country debate.
Eleven Sri Lankan cricketers are playing in the money-spinning IPL, including Tillakaratne Dilshan, who is likely to lead Sri Lanka in England with Kumar Sangakkara having resigned the captaincy after the World Cup.
Dilshan plays for the Royal Challengers Bangalore IPL franchise along with fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep; Sangakkara is the skipper of Deccan Chargers and Mahela Jayawardene leads new team Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
The players have been asked to return to Sri Lanka by May 5, more than three weeks before the IPL ends.
Asked if they would abandon their respective franchise teams just as the tournament approaches its climax, Sangakkara was non-committal.
"It is up to the Indian board and Sri Lanka Cricket to negotiate on the date of our return," said the wicketkeeper-batsman.
"What we as players can do is to abide by the decision of our board."
The lure of easy money on offer in the Twenty20 competition where one needs to play a maximum of 15 games over six weeks has always tested the loyalty of players.
Australian Michael Clarke pulled out of the IPL in 2008, saying he wanted to focus on managing his workload and national commitments.
West Indies' Chris Gayle caused a furore when he arrived in England only two days before the first Test at Lord's as he was busy playing in the 2009 edition of the IPL, hosted by South Africa.
"We are all different and it's about who can adapt as quickly as possible and be ready physically and mentally," Gayle said at the time.
For the current tournament, explosive West Indies batsman Kieron Pollard chose to play for Mumbai Indians, owned by India's billionaire business tycoon Mukesh Ambani, and miss a series of home one-dayers against Pakistan.
New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori said the players could be spared the conundrum if an IPL window was provided in the international calendar.
"Most of the players would like for a window for the IPL," said Vettori, captain of Bangalore franchise. "A majority of the players understand that the country comes first.
"We would like to find a balance between playing for the country and playing for our franchises, so that no one misses the IPL and no one misses international cricket."
Flamboyant England batsman Kevin Pietersen has always made known his love for the IPL and admitted feeling gutted at missing this year's tournament due to an injury.
"I'm bitterly disappointed," said the South African-born batsman.
Pietersen was the tournament's most expensive player two years ago when he was snapped up by Royal Challengers Bangalore for $1.55 million and was due to earn around $650,000 playing for Deccan Chargers this season.