Pune:Propelled on the Indian Premier League map as a new franchise for the fourth edition of the cricket extravaganza, Pune's metamorphosis into a major cosmopolitan destination of the country now appears complete.
Although the event is scheduled the next season, the ball was set rolling when the Sahara group head Subrata Roy visited the city a few days back and inspected the under construction venue of International Cricket Centre of Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA), at Gahunj across Mumbai-Pune express highway.
The group which has bought the Pune team at a staggering Rs 1702 crore at the recent IPL auction that also saw Kochi as a new addition to the celebrated league, was yet to name it.
At a felicitation accorded to Roy by MCA, he said, "we are searching for a suitable name for the team and I am sure we will come up with a good one. Suggestions are welcome".
Elated at the landmark development, the MCA President Ajay Shirke said that it would provide a big boost to cricket in Pune and Maharshtra.
Already competing with Bangalore in the IT sector, Pune, also called the country's auto hub and an international education centre, is now listed among the top ten cities of India with a population of five million. The IPL tag now is seen by cricket lovers as a feather in the cap of this cultural capital of Maharashtra.
The huge cricket stadium being built by MCA at a cost of Rs 275 crore is expected to be ready to host the IPL matches here by February 2011 and will have as many as 17 wickets to play the game.
"On completion of the first phase in February next year, the stadium will have a capacity of 47,000 seats which will be further expanded up to 57,000," Shirke said.
An eight-member team from Sahara which viewed a presentation prepared by MCA and inspected the ground, has expressed satisfaction at the progress of the stadium which has been designed at par with international standards.
A spokesman of Sahara said its team would be paying frequent visits to the venue to monitor the progress of work and ensure completion on schedule.
The IPL managers, it is learnt, have also kept ready an alternative plan to play the matches at Nehru stadium in the city to meet exigencies in case the Gahunje stadium completion is deferred, sources said.
At present, two Pune players are already playing in the current IPL. They are Kedar Jadhav (For Delhi Daredevils) and Harshad Khadiwale (Kolkata Knight Riders), the MCA President said.
There are two more players--- Jitendra Patil and Aditya Dale-- from Pune who are serving as stand-by for the Banglore and Rajasthan teams respectively, he added.
As per the IPL rules, there would be four players to be included in the new Pune IPL team of Sahara, expanding the scope for upcoming cricketers from Maharashtra.
"These players would be chosen from the 'Catchment area' of the franchise which is yet to be specified . It can cover Maharashtra and Goa," Shirke noted.
Punekars who have witnessed mega sport events like the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games and the National sports in 1994, are excited about "naming" of the Pune IPL.
The possible names that are doing the rounds include "Pune Panthers", "Pune Maratha Warriors", "Pune Peshwas" and so on...