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The IPL's two new franchises will be announced on March 8, Lalit Modi, the tournament commissioner, has said. Twelve cities - including four that will host games in IPL 2010 - are in the running, with the criteria for the bidding to be revealed on February 21.

The cities in the fray are: Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Kanpur, Dharamsala, Indore, Cuttack, Gwalior, Visakapatnam (all eight have stadiums for hosting games), Rajkot, Pune, Vadodara and Kochi (the last four have new stadia under construction).

The IPL had already announced that the bidding for a new franchise would start from a base price of US$225m, more than four times the US$50m base price that the original eight franchises were auctioned for in 2008. The league's expansion will see a much longer fixture list - 94 games as opposed to 59 in the first two seasons if the format remains the same.

Modi said on his Twitter page that the IPL wanted to ensure the new owners were identified before this year's IPL starts on March 12, so that the new owners and management will get a feel of how franchises work during the season to prepare them for their debut in 2011.

The announcement comes amid speculation that existing franchise owners are looking to divest all or some of their stake. Modi said those interested in buying part of or an entire franchise include a top English football club, with the MCC also keen on getting involved with the league.

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