The IPL player auction for the 2011 season will be held on January 8 and 9 in Mumbai, the league's governing council has announced. The tournament itself will feature eight teams, playing 60 matches, and run from April 8 to May 22.

Key IPL dates
November 27, 2010 - Kochi franchise deadline
January 8,9, 2011 - Player auction for IPL 2011
April 7, 2011 - Opening ceremony
April 8, 2011 - First match
May 22, 2011 - Final

The tournament, which begins a week after the World Cup ends, will involve each of the eight sides playing playing 14 games, adding up to 56 matches, the same as in previous IPL editions. The top two from the league rounds will then contest a play-off match, with the winner qualifying for the "Grand Final." The teams that finish third and fourth in the league stage will contest the other play-off, and the winner of that game will play the defeated team from the first play-off to decide the second finalist.

The auction is likely to be on the scale of the first one, held in 2008, with teams starting largely from scratch, and will be held under rules framed in September. One difference will be the absence of "icon" players - originally, five franchises had one player each named as its icon. The auction was initially to have been held this month but uncertainty over the composition of the tournament - with two franchises expelled and a third, Kochi, in limbo - forced a postponement.

The governing council, which met in Mumbai on Wednesday, was expected to have discussed the status of the Kochi franchise but Rajiv Shukla, a BCCI vice-president and council member, said it did not figure. He did, however, reiterate that the 2011 season would have eight participating teams.

Kochi have until November 27 to reply to the IPL's notice asking it to set its house in order; if, as seems likely, the franchise owners decide to call it quits, the IPL will start the auction process for a replacement team. With a majority of the current franchises in the southern half of the country, any new franchise is likely to be from the north - Ahmedabad being the front-runner.

The new auction rules governing player retention, which have been criticised by the franchises, allow a team to keep up to four players but at a steep price.The first player retained will cost a team $1.8 million against the salary cap of $9 million, regardless of the amount the player is actually paid. The second player will cost $1.3 million, the third $900,000 and the fourth $500,000.