Dhoni to play for Pune in IPL

MUMBAI: India's limited-overs captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the first pick by the new Pune franchise while Rajkot chose batsman Suresh Raina at the Indian Premier League draft for the next two seasons on Tuesday.

The western Indian cities of Pune and Rajkot were named as home to two new franchises for the next two years, filling the void left by the two-year suspensions on the Chennai and Rajasthan franchises following an illegal betting scandal.

Players from the two suspended franchises were made available in the draft, allowing the two teams to pick five players each.

New Rising, a consortium led by Sanjiv Goenka, chairman of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, bagged the Pune team while mobile manufacturers Intex made a successful bid for Rajkot in a reverse bidding process, the Indian Cricket board (BCCI) said last week.

Pune, having made the most successful bid, got the first pick and went for the 34-year-old Dhoni, who led Chennai in all eight previous seasons of the IPL.

Australia captain Steve Smith, South Africa's Faf du Plessis and India batsman Ajinkya Rahane and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin were the other players selected by Pune.

New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum will play for Rajkot, who also added Australia all-rounder James Faulkner, former West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo and India's spin-bowling all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja.

Both franchises will lose 390 million rupees ($5.82 million) from their total purse of 660 million for next year's IPL auctions in which the remaining players from the suspended team will be added to the pool.

The Twenty20 league, with a $3.5 billion estimated brand value and boasting Bollywood stars and major conglomerates as investors, has been dogged by corruption allegations for years.

In July, a panel set up by India's top court recommended suspending the franchise owners of the two teams following an illegal betting and spot-fixing scandal surrounding the IPL, the ninth edition of which will be played from April 9 to May 29.