Kolkata: The Indian
Premier League T20 tourney - synonymising cricket, cash,
controversies and dollops of glamour - opens its sixth edition
Tuesday with a cultural gala marrying the rhythm of American rap
music with Bollywood dhamaka, but ironically at an iconic soccer
venue where the likes of Lionel Messi have mesmerised tens of
thousands of spectators in the past.
Come Tuesday evening and Salt Lake Stadium - one of the world's
largest with a capacity to accommodate 100,000-plus spectators -
would dance with Mumbai film megastar Shah Rukh Khan shaking a leg
to some peppy numbers. Mumbai's leading ladies Katrina Kaif and
Deepika Padukone would also perform, with famed American rapper of
Cuban origin Pitbul, Chinese drummers and dancers from Europe
providing the international touch.
A firecracker display and sundry other entertainment masala are
the other attractions for the show, which kickstarts the fresh
chapter of the league, that epitomises the journey of cricket from
a gentleman's game of amateurs to one embracing free market
economy. Nine teams would clash for supremacy in 76 matches spread
over 54 days across 12 venues. The only new side is Sunrisers
Hyderabad, who replace Deccan Chargers, ejected by the IPL
Governing Council for breach of contract.
The opening ceremony of the IPL, considered the world's second
richest sports tourney after NBA, is being held in Kolkata for the
first time. As per rules, the defending champion hosts the show,
and the Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla co-owned Kolkata Knight
Riders earned the rights after lifting the trophy last year.
The city itself is hosting its first such sports opening ceremony
in 17 years, and fingers will remain crossed, as the World Cup
cricket inauguration programme had badly flopped at the Eden
Gardens in 1996.
Through it 29 years of existence, the Salt Lake Stadium has played
the Pied Piper to soccer buffs regularly during local derby
matches involving arch-rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, besides
a large number of international engagements where many big names
from across the globe took part. And if the crowds who queued up
for hours before booking counters are any indication, the
organisers can look forward to a sell-out.
The holding of the programme at the stadium had led to guffaws in
this soccer crazy city, and critics would be keeping a keen eye on
whether the multi-crore artificial turf installed some years back
suffered any damage.
But on the flip side, the venue is also notorious for the lights
conking on big match days, and soccer stars form Zico - who
coached Japan against India in a 2004 pre-world cup match - to
Messi - who led Argentina in the international friendly against
Venezuela in 2011 - have been witness to the stadium plunge into
However, the organisers claimed all precautions have been taken to
ensure there was no power black-out.
For Shah Rukh, bad news came from Mumbai Sunday that the five-year
ban imposed on him last season following an ugly spat with the MCA
officials after his team's win over Mumbai Indians was still in
With the doors of the Wankhede in the western metropolis that also
houses his residence closed to him, SRK would now be left to flex
his muscles in Kolkata's Eden Gardens, the home venue of his side.
The success of the opening ceremony would be a litmus test for the
Badshah of Bollywood, especially after his bid to rope in American
singer Jennifer Lopez fell flat after she demanded exhorbitant
fees and other facilties.
A year back, the city had poured into the streets on a harsh and
oppressive summer day to watch the Knights' victory parade, and
the sweet memories must still be very fresh in the Bolywood
actor's mind. Eden Gardens incidentally will also host the IPL
final May 26.
The tag of defending champions might put some pressure on the
Knights, who begin their campaign against the Delhi Daredevils
Controversies have been a a part and parcel of IPL. This year has
also had one when the IPL authorities banned Sri Lankan cricketers
from from playing in Chennai after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.
Jayalalithaa insisted that the matches can be played in the
southern metropolis only if there were no players or team
officials from the Emerald Island.
Jayalalithaa's diktat, coming in the wake of the growing unrest in
Tamil Nadu over the atrocities against ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka
during the civil war against Tamil Tigers that ended in 2009.
Enraged team owners, and now franchises with a strong Sri Lankan
presence, are slowly building up pressure on the IPL Governing
Council to shift their play-off and knockout matches out of
Besides, in a drunken brawl, Delhi Daredevils' Kiwi import Jesse
Ryder sunk into a coma after being assaulted outside a bar in
Christchurch. Ryder, though, has recovered and is undergoing
treatment for a smashed skull and punctured lung. But there is
little chance of him turning up in this edition of the IPL.