The sixth season of the Indian Premier League - the world’s biggest twenty-over cricket league - kicked off with a star-studded opening ceremony earlier this week. Will the tournament live up to its hype?
The last season of now Indian's foremost cricket championship - the Indian Premier League (IPL) - was won by Kolkata Knight Riders, which is co-owned by Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan. Therefore, the Indian city of Kolkata rightfully deserved to host the opening ceremony of this season, which the organizers claimed had the quality and magnitude at par with the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics.
But it was merely a claim as all did not go well at the opening ceremony of the IPL. American singer and actress Jennifer Lopez made a last-minute exit from the star-studded line-up. The organizers claimed that Lopez's requirements for herself and her entourage could not be met, but the Indian media reported that Lopez's fee was simply too high for the IPL management.
On Tuesday evening, the IPL opening ceremony saw the "King of Bollywood" Shahrukh Khan along with two leading ladies of Bollywood, Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone, perform on stage. Two of Bengal's best known artists, singer Usha Uthup and music composer Bappi Lahiri, also rocked the event.
Nine teams are participating in this year's IPL. Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians, Pune Warriors India, Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad are all hoping to lift the trophy at the end of the tournament.
A star-studded event
American rapper Pitbull was the star performer of the evening with his party songs - something which Indian people rarely get to see live on stage. Debarshi Duttagupta, an award-winning photographer, said that the “the opening ceremony was a grand and colorful event."
"I particularly loved Pitbull's performance. His performance was definitely the highlight of the event,” Duttagupta told DW.
Dhiman Sarkar, sports editor of the daily Hindustan Times in Kolkata, also looked quite impressed. "The opening ceremony was quite a show, of the kind which Kolkata hadn't seen before. There was Bollywood - the eternal Indian favourite – along with cricket. There were acrobats, musicians, and of course Pitbull who has a lot of fans in India."
The opening ceremony of the IPL was not devoid of controversies. Kolkata is also known as India's football hub. Many football lovers were angry that the IPL ceremony was held at the Saltlake football stadium. Because of the ceremony, India's top tier football league, the I-League, had to be shifted to another stadium on the outskirts of Kolkata.
"The low point was definitely the fact that the ceremony was held at the Saltlake Stadium. I am not in favour of messing up the turf of the best football stadium in India. They could have easily done it elsewhere," said Duttagupta.
But Sarkar disagrees. "I don't see any problem here. Everywhere in the world stadiums are used for such events. As long as the stadium is handed back in the right shape, no one should have a problem."
The opening ceremony once again showed why the IPL is often referred to as "Crictainment" in India. It is more than just sports - a fusion of two of India's biggest passions, cricket and Bollywood.
The sixth season of the IPL started on Wednesday, April 3, and will conclude May 26 at Kolkata's Eden Gardens.