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IPL rolling in megabucks with two new franchises

Abu Dhabi: Barely two years into the Indian Premier League (IPL), it was clear that the new concept was making deep inroads into the psyche of cricketlovers across the world.

By the end of the 2010 season, the popularity of IPL had reached unbelievable heights and the Indian board quickly cashed on this euphoria — they decided to float two more teams for the 2011 season — Pune and Kochi.

The bigwigs who had stayed out of the first auction immediately jumped into the race. However, this time the share of the pie came at a prize, well beyond one’s imagination.

Each team could have a squad of at the most 30 players with a maximum of $9 million to spend on purchasing players. Choosing to retain players would subject to a reduction in their salary cap and that would subsequently reduce the amount they may spend on other players.

Sahara group, the then sponsors of Team India, pledged an unbelievable $370 million for Pune while a consortium called Rendezvous Sports World forked out $333.3 million for Kochi. These two bids, worth a total of about $703 million, added up to more than the $627.46 million collectively paid by the existing eight franchise owners in the first auction in 2008.

Sahara went on to name their side ‘Pune Warriors India’ while Rendezvous Sports World team became ‘Kochi Tuskers Kerala’. Both these sides, however, didn’t make a significant impact in the 2011 season.

Addition of the two teams saw a new 10-team format that consisted of 74 matches and the knockout stage was changed to a playoff format. A Super Over was to be played to determine the winner if the match ended in a tie.

Chennai Super Kings (CSK), under their ice cool skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, went on to win their second successive title beating Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) by 58 runs at their home ground M. A. Chidambaram Stadium.

RCB wouldn’t have made it to the finals, had it not been for West Indies star batsman Chris Gayle, who joined the team only after injury to Dirk Nannes. Gayle was in breathtaking form and he tore most of the bowlers apart to accumulate 608 runs from just 12 innings. He also had eight wickets under his belt and walked away with the Man of the Tournament award.

In the finals, however, Dhoni got the better off Gayle by introducing Ravichandran Ashwin upfront after his side posted a mammoth total of 206 runs. Saurabh Tiwary and Virat Kohli contributed with 42 and 37 runs, respectively, but it was not enough to get RCB across the line as they could only manage 147 in 20 overs.

Mumbai Indians’ Lasith Malinga set a new record for most wickets taken within an IPL season — 28 wickets in all, but his side had to settle for third place, losing to RCB in the second qualifier.