It was probably the biggest opening night in Indian Premier League history, and not entirely by choice. Like it or not, N Srinivasan & Co were forced to shell out big money to put up a stage so grand that it made up for the Indian team's lacklustre showing this season.
The humiliation in England and Australia has put off the fans, and sensing their disillusionment, all attempts are being made to woo them back. There is concern among the stakeholders of the dark mood affecting the IPL as well. Hence, the mandarins are pulling out all stops.
For many, the fifth edition is the litmus test for Brand IPL's future. It comes amidst one of the worst phases in Indian cricket history, it's worst slump since the 1960s.
Eight straight Test defeats overseas has doused the euphoria of the World Cup triumph. The Asia Cup failure only dampened the mood further. If the T20 extravaganza survives the prevailing negativism and wins over the fans, there should be no stopping it.
Bollywood biggies Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Priyanka Chopra and American pop diva Kate Perry were all roped in to create the buzz around the event. Whether it meets the purpose, we will know when the Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians players walk out on to the field in Wednesday's opener. A packed house will ease a lot of nerves and the millions on the opening show would have been well spent.
Surprisingly, compared to last year, CSK's presence in the city has also been low-key. The hoardings which normally greet one from almost every street corner are missing and the locals say the build-up events have also been fewer. One reason could be the change in the state government. The current regime is not known to be as warm to the Srinivasan-led Tamil Nadu Cricket Association. It is learnt it has hiked the entertainment tax on the IPL tickets.
Thus, the onus will be on the Tendulkars, Dhonis, Sehwags and Harbhajans to put up a show that will lift the spirits. This IPL needs a Brendon McCullum-moment, like in the debut season, and right at the start. If the stars can provide that, it will be a different ball game.
There is also apprehension due to the poor interest in IPL IV, when the TV ratings slid and the attendances were poor.
However, India and Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni dismissed talk of a dull opening to the tournament like the last time. "Last year, there was the 50-overs World Cup in India, which is the most prized trophy. The Indian public followed it very closely throughout the 50-odd days. Not only were they watching our team's performance, they were also scrutinising our opponent's games. They were emotionally drained. This season will be different, we will see people coming back for the IPL games and the TRPs will increase."
Team to beat
Although prediction in T20 cricket is fraught with risk, CSK will again start favourites. They will seek inspiration from their envious record. They have the tag of the most successful team and will be aiming for a hat-trick. Almost unbeateable at home, they will again have the advantage, that the final and the play-offs will be held at their favourite Chidambaram Stadium.
On paper, and by past record, their main rivals will be Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore. In the end, it's a format where fortunes swing decisively within the space of a few balls and the ones who hold their nerves will take the cake.