Two fundamental issues concerning the 2011 IPL season - the tournament format and player retention - have finally been resolved by the league's governing council, after months of uncertainty following the addition of two new franchises. The next three seasons of the IPL will have 74 matches each, the format designed to reward the most consistent teams during the league phase of the tournament. The 2011 season will begin five days after the World Cup, which ends on April 2.
The governing council also decided to allow franchises to retain four players in their squads, the rest going into the auction scheduled for November. The franchises' spending power for a squad of 30 players has been capped at $9 million.
In each of the next three seasons, the IPL will comprise 70 league matches and four playoff games. The ten teams will be split into two groups of five, but will be ranked together in one composite league table. The change was necessary due to the inclusion of two new teams, Pune and Kochi, from the next season. An extension of the current home-and-away format would have stretched the season to 94 matches, which had prompted concerns of player burn-out. Franchise owners were also reluctant to reduce the minimum number of matches their team would play each season. These constraints have led to a convoluted format.
Every team will play the same number of league games (14, seven home and seven away) as in previous seasons with the following break-up: each team will play the other four in its group both home and away (eight matches), four of the teams in the other group once (four matches, either home or away) and the remaining team in the other group twice, both home and away. A random draw will decide the composition of the groups as well as who plays whom across the groups once and twice.
The teams that finish first and second in the league table will contest the first playoff, which is effectively a semi-final (Game A). The teams that finish third and fourth will play each other in a knockout that is effectively a quarter-final (Game B). The loser of Game A will play the winner of Game B in a match (Game C) that will decide the second finalist that will play the winner of Game A in the grand final. This playoff format was previously used in New Zealand's domestic one-day tournament last season.
Each of the eight franchises that participated in 2010 can retain up to four players, only three of whom can be Indians. The retained players must have been part of the franchise's registered squads for the 2010 season, and will not be part of November's auction.
The franchise, and the player it wishes to retain must come to a mutual agreement regarding the retention and the fee for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. However, irrespective of the actual fee agreed upon by the franchise and the player, the franchise's salary cap will be reduced by fixed amounts.
If a franchise decides to retain four players, it will be charged $4.5 million per year and will have only $4.5 million to spend on other players, compared to the $9 million available to a franchise that retains no one. Also, the size of the squad is capped at 30 players.
Ahead of the auction in November, the two new franchises, Pune and Kochi, will also be allowed to sign up to four players from a list of players who were not part of any of the other eight franchises in the first three IPL seasons. However, if either Pune or Kochi sign players ahead of the auction, their salary cap will also be reduced by the same amount as the salary cap for existing franchises retaining players.
All the other international capped players, as well as other players who have played 75% of their side's IPL matches in 2010, will be part of the auction.
A franchise can have up to ten overseas players in their squad but only four can be on the field during a game. The player contracts that will be signed ahead of the 2011 season will be valid for two years, with a right of extension for the third year. All players who are part of a franchise's squad will come under the salary cap.
Another change is that the BCCI has decided to take more control of players' IPL contracts, though a new policy has not yet been decided on. "All player contracts will now be managed by BCCI and signed by BCCI along with the franchise and the player," the board said. "No player contracts can be signed until [the new policy is in place]."
Revised catchment areas
The IPL has changed the catchment areas for the existing franchises because of the addition of two new teams from the 2011 season. Teams have to include four players from their catchment area in the squad of 30.