Even though he had opted out of the one-day series against New Zealand, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni made bigger news off-the-field this week.

Two of India's leading corporate giants have roped in ‘MSD' as their brand ambassador for a reported cumulative fee of over $12 million (Dh44.13 million) — making them by far the richest endorsement deals in cricket in recent times.

No prizes for guessing that given Dhoni's soaring brand equity ever since he became captain (he is the richest cricketer, according to a Forbes list for over an year now), both these companies had decided to pull out all stops to get him on their side. However, with the World Cup just two months away, more news of Indian cricketers in such mega deals could well be on the way.

As one has seen in the past, the World Cup offers the biggest platform for corporate houses to leverage cricketers as their brand ambassadors — and the fact the showpiece is coming back to the sub-continent will increase the hype this time. It was Virender Sehwag who set the tone sometime back when he was roped in by Sunil Gavaskar's Professional Management Group (PMG) for an astounding $20 million-plus guarantee money for three years. The deal puts him in the same bracket as his skipper and Sachin Tendulkar!

It was the turn of Suresh Raina next to hit the jackpot — the cherubic Indian middle order batsman, who has remarkably grown in stature over the past one year. Rhiti Sports, the company which handles Dhoni's portfolio, has taken him on board with a manifold rise in his fees.

Such figures do bring one back to the FAQ of Indian cricket: does too much money often make the players lose focus? There is no black-and-white answer to this question for, in today's world, brand building for a sportsperson is as important in individual sports as performance.

However, if it's an icon like a Tendulkar or Tiger Woods, then occasional failures don't raise much of a concern as there is a degree of timelessness about their achievements. It's the wannabes like a Raina or Virat Kohli who need to be more responsible when it comes to delivering on the field. A World Cup at home will, along with the excitement, bring along the burden of expectations from the Indian team. Tongues will definitely start wagging if they fail to produce a decent performance — and the refrain of money-the-root-of-all-evils may fill the air — from which even the captain will have no reprieve!