Chennai: Just six days after its national team sparked nationwide celebrations by winning the World Cup, India's obsession with cricket will switch to the start of the money-spinning Indian Premier League when the Twenty20 event gets under way on Friday.
The euphoria since India beat Sri Lanka to secure the 50-over world title on Saturday can only be good news for the fourth edition of the IPL, which starts in Chennai after allegations of corruption prompted a change in management.
The league's former head Lalit Modi has been suspended since April 2010 by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which has been investigating bribery allegations in the 2008 auction for new IPL teams. Modi was later replaced by Indian cricket board vice president Chirayu Amin.
The IPL is the world's richest cricket tournament, worth $4 billion in franchise fees and television rights. It has some of the best-known Bollywood cinema stars and billionaire tycoons among its owners, while several of the world's top cricketers play in its teams.
Two new franchises — Kochi and Pune — joined in 2011 after bids worth a combined $703 million. The newcomers will increase the league to 10 teams and the number of matches from 60 to 74 for the April 8-May 28 event.
Sahara Adventure Sports, part of the diversified Sahara Group, bought the rights for a team in the western city of Pune for $370 million, and called it Pune Warriors. A consortium called Rendezvous Sports World won the franchise for the southern city of Kochi for $333 million and named it Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
Teams have also undergone an overhaul following the second player auction in January. Only 12 players were retained by five of the eight teams from their original squads.
Defending champion Chennai Super Kings retained Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, his compatriots Suresh Raina and Murali Vijay, and South African Albie Morkel — as it parted with half of the $9 million salary cap available to teams.
The 2010 finalist Mumbai Indians kept India stars Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh, Sri Lankan pace bowler Lasith Malinga and West Indian all-rounder Kieron Pollard for $4.5 million.
India batting star Gautam Gambhir was the most expensive player at the auction, picked up for $2.4 million for two years by Kolkata Knight Riders. The team also bought Indian allrounder Yusuf Pathan for $2.1 million.
Among other top internationals at the high end of the bidding were Sri Lanka vice-captain Mahela Jayawardene, bought by Kochi for $1.5 million, Australian David Hussey, hired by Punjab for $1.4 million and a South African trio — Dale Steyn, netted by Deccan Chargers for $1.2 million, AB de Villiers by Bangalore and Jacques Kallis by Kolkata for $1.1 million each.
Mukesh Ambani, who controls India's most valuable company, Reliance Industries, and film actors Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty, all own teams in the IPL.