The eighth edition of cricket’s glamour event – the Indian Premier League – kicks off at the Salt Lake stadium on Tuesday, barely weeks after the World Cup ended in Australia.
There are fears of low spectator turnout in stadia and less TV viewership for what is being billed as ‘India ka tyohar’ (festival of India) but Indian fans have shown over the years that they are never cricket-weary.
The organisers are also leaving nothing to chance, ready to dish out a heady dose of cricket and Bollywood glamour during the opening ceremony.
Here are five things to look out for tonight and beyond:
Glitz and glamour
Brace for dazzling lights and laser projections shooting straight-off from the ground for a replay of the magical moments from past IPL editions besides performances by Bollywood celebrities during a glitzy opening jamboree.
The two-hour gala, featuring Bollywood stars Farhan Akhtar, Shahid Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Pritam and Hrithik Roshan, is scheduled to start at 7:30pm.
Despite the absence of superstar Shah Rukh Khan, a regular at the inaugurals, or any foreign artist, Roshan Abbas’s Encompass Events promises a “different” and “global” experience that will entertain all.
Around 400 performers (including 300 locals) will be involved in an opening dance sequence choreographed by Remo D’Souza and Santosh Shetty that will see eight-to-ten-minute performances by Hrithik, Shahid and Anushka Sharma on a mash-up of popular Bollywood dance tracks.
This is Hrithik’s second live show in Kolkata after a gap of 15 years while the city hosted its last IPL inaugural in 2013.
Actor-director Farhan Akhtar will belt out songs with his band while actor Saif Ali Khan, Indian cricketing legend Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi’s son, will host the show and introduce the cricketers and stars.
Light and sound
The centrepiece of the event is expected t be the floor projections through laser depicting the evolution of IPL.
“It will offer a glimpse into the winning teams, the cricketers and what the league means to people. The camaraderie between cricketers of different countries while playing together in a single team will be in focus,” Encompass vice-president Chanda Singh said.
The “tight and seamless” script will incorporate both Bollywood and cricket and will appeal to global viewers.
“The content will be in English and will be in sync with the spirit of the IPL song India Ka Tyohar. The choreography would be Bollywood style,” Chanda added.
And finally some cricket
IPL will show why it is cricket’s melting pot with the opening match itself featuring two players who aggressively faced off as recently as in the World Cup last month, playing together in one team.
David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan will share the dressing room for Sunrisers Hyderabad and will put behind their spat in Australia recently.
Before the match, all eight team captains will grace the occasion to take the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) Spirit of Cricket pledge.
Gautam Gambhir, the skipper of last year’s champions KKR, will put the trophy back in play, signaling the start of the 2015 season.
A chance to prove a point
As international rivals become friends, there will be some who will be hungry for success as the tournament provides an ideal launchpad ahead of next year’s World Twenty20 in India around the same time.
There will be some veteran Indian warhorses with the likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan among others, who will see this as a final chance to make a comeback to the national side.
The Indian selectors might think otherwise, but the IPL teams clearly believe the 33-year-old Yuvraj still has the fire in his belly as he was bought for a record Rs 16 crore by Delhi Daredevils after intense bidding among four franchises.
This had happened on the back of his three successive Ranji Trophy centuries which were not enough for him to make the World Cup cut. But the player of the tournament in India’s 2011 World Cup triumph is not the one to give up and would be among the ones to watch out for this season.
Keep an eye on the weather, too
However, months of preparations could come to naught if the weather gods decide otherwise.
The Met office said that apart from showers there was a high chance of a thunderstorm striking Kolkata and its surrounding 50-km area on Tuesday afternoon.
On Sunday, a thunderstorm affected Kolkata Knight Riders’ practice at the Eden Gardens which turned soggy. The Knight Riders had to be content with a workout at the Pankaj Gupta indoor stadium located within the Eden Gardens premises.
The weatherman’s forecast has already increased the creases on the foreheads of the organisers.
Read: Anushka Sharma and Co. to add glam to IPL opening ceremony