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NEW DELHI, Jan 22 (Reuters) – All-rounder Hardik Pandya will lead Ahmedabad and batsman KL Rahul will captain Lucknow when the franchises make their debuts in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year.

The 15th edition of the world’s richest Twenty20 league will be a 10-team affair with the inclusion of the two new franchises, who paid a combined $1.71 billion to be part of the competition.

“I am looking forward to working with Hardik as a young and new captain,” Ahmedabad team mentor Gary Kirsten told Star Sports channel.

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“I think he will be really motivated to come in and make a plan and show what he is capable of at this level of the game as a leader,” said the South African, who coached India to their 2011 World Cup triumph on home soil.

Ahmedabad have also signed top Afghan spinner Rashid Khan and India opener Shubman Gill.

Top-order batsman Rahul, currently captaining India in the one-day leg of their South Africa tour in the absence of Rohit Sharma, will be in charge of Lucknow in their inaugural season.

“I have been very impressed by KL’s not only batting and wicketkeeping abilities, but his leadership skills,” Lucknow owner Sanjiv Goenka told the channel, adding that he has “everything it takes to succeed”.

Lucknow have also picked Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis and Indian leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi.

All 10 franchises will look to strengthen their side in next month’s players’ auction in Bengaluru. Dates and venues of this year’s tournament have not been announced yet.

A total of 1,214 players, including 318 overseas cricketers from 18 countries, have signed up for the auction, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) said on Saturday.

Holders Chennai Super Kings have retained all-rounder Moeen Ali, while England team mate Jos Buttler will be seen in Rajasthan Royals colours again.

Kolkata Knight Riders have retained Sunil Narine and Andre Russell while fellow West Indian Kieron Pollard will continue to represent Mumbai Indians.

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Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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