CRICKET LOVERS in Pune are jubilant after the reinduction of their team in the Indian Premier League (IPL). City enjoyed a brief spell of three seasons in the competition, before the previous investors decided to withdraw. Team had a huge fan base, which then dispersed, with many fans opting for Mumbai Indians. However, Pune’s return has been sealed on Tuesday, along with Rajkot after BCCI accepted the bids from new investors to replace Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, who have been suspended for two seasons for 2013 spot fixing scandal. BCCI had set the base price for the reverse bids from its central revenue pool at Rs 40 crore and the investors to bid the lowest share were going to be declared the winners of the new teams. RP-Sanjiv Goenka group, who are the co-owners of ISL franchise Atletico de Kolkata, made the highest reverse bid of 16 crores to stake the claim.
Welcoming the reinduction, President of Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Ajay Shirke said, “It is great news for the city fans who supported the team before its withdrawal. We feel proud that Pune received the highest reverse bid, which means the investor is willing to invest his own money, rather than depend on the central revenue pool. I think they’ve taken this decision because we’ve an excellent infrastructure.” Shirke further added that Maharashtra Cricket Association’s stadium in Gahunje played a big role in bringing Pune back to the IPL. “Our gate collection was one of the highest in the country when Pune Sahara Warriors played. Even last year, we hosted three matches, where Kings XI Punjab played as the home team and the response was tremendous. It will only increase in the upcoming matches. I hope that Pune stays in IPL beyond two years, even after Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals make a come back,” he said.
Chandu Borde, former player and chairman of the selection committee, said, “Despite the controversies which it has faced in the past, IPL is a good platform for newcomers. Due to IPL, India has got many quality bowlers and the players don’t crack under pressure in international games. I hope that local talent from the city gets well representated in the team.” Raju Bhalekar, former captain of Maharashtra Ranji team and currently the Cricket Secretary of PYC Gymkhana said, “Pune in the competition means city will get atleast eight matches in the city. Players like Kedar Jadhav and Dominic Muthuswamy have made the city proud in the tournament before and have also got noticed by the seletion committee.”
City-based physio Mahendra Gokhale, who was the former fitness trainer of other IPL franchise Mumbai Indians and is currently involved in Pro Kabaddi League, said, “IPL coming back to Pune is a great boost for Maharashtra, particularly because the Ranji team of the state has given some unsatisfactory performances for last two years. Talented players from that team can be inducted in Pune.” The fan base looks happy with the return of their team as well. Digvijay Sinh Naik, a student of Law at Modern College, who has been a regular visitor at MCA said, “ With the return of Pune in IPL, the excitement has increased as well. It is evident from the social network. I hope that Pune gets Dhoni in the auctions along with other international stars like Shane Watson or Faf Du Plessis. For the last three years, I cheered for teams like CSK and Kings XI Punjab at the MCA Stadium, but this time I would be cheering my own city again.”