Kolkata: Heavy rain failed to dampen the spirit of ‘City of Joy’ as a dazzling Bollywood-style opening ceremony kick started the eighth edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket after a one and a half hour delay at the decked-up Salt Lake stadium.
The event was a little subdued compared to the galas of the previous editions but the cine stars still managed to put up a show, enthralling the thousands of drenched fans who were glued to their seats.
The cheer was loud for Virat Kohli, louder for Mahendra Singh Dhoni but loudest for their ‘very own’ Gautam Gambhir.
While Bollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan stole the show with his electrifying dance performance, leading lady Anushka Sharma brought on a lot of panache with her performance.
The versatile Farhan Akhtar and Shahid Kapoor regaled the crowd, both performing to their respective numbers from movies such as Rock On and Kaminey.
Shahid hit a ramp slightly and then slipped on the stage before recovering quickly.
Of those from the glam world, Hrithik was the most sought-after as he gyrated to his hit numbers from Bang Bang and Dhoom 2.
The eight skippers led by India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni signed the MCC Spirit of Cricket pledge to start IPL-8 formally in front of Ravi Shastri before they posed for a formal group photo.
Bollywood then took centrestage with Haider actor Shahid making an entry in a motorcycle to the tunes of local hero Bappi Lahiri.
“Rain or shine the celebration will continue that’s how we love our cricket. Now we have a new season apart from monsoon, summer, winter and spring and that’s the season of IPL,” the anchor of the show, Saif Ali Khan, said in his opening address.
The Omkara star called out the captains of the eight franchises as the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, JP Duminy and George Bailey walked onto the dais.
But it was the trio of Dhoni, Kohli and Gambhir who received the biggest applause as firecrackers lit up the Kolkata sky.
The ceremony began after an one hour and 30 minutes delay with a traditional Rabindra Sangeet rendition of ‘Ananda Loke’.
Women wearing traditional bengali sarees danced to the famous song as music director Pritam started the show.
One of the greatest entertainers of the curtailed ceremony was Anushka, who took to the stage amid chants of ‘Kohli, Kohli’ while the Royal Challengers skipper made a quick entry to the VVIP box to catch the performance.
Kohli, who had come with a backpack, was seen leaving the box soon after Anushka’s 10-minute performance got over.
The show-stopper of the night was undoubtedly Hrithik, who enthralled the thin audience with his groovy steps and later thanked West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for gifting him a scarf that dangled around his neck.
“I was gifted this Uttario (scarf) by Didi and I promised her to wear this as a symbol of love,” the star said.
Heavy rains earlier upset the organisers’ plan before the programme finally began at 9 pm with a traditional performance on Tagore’s ‘Ananda Loke’.
Barring the eight captains who were forced to stay for the formal oath, team members of Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challngers Bangalore left the venue as also quite a few spectators.
But the organisers kept the promise to start the ceremony though it could not quite match up to the opening ceremonies of ISL (2014) and IPL (2013).
The Norwester, known as Kal Baishaki in this part of the world, had been threatening to mar the organisers’ plan of holding a grand opening ceremony.
Umbrellas were out in large numbers across all the stands and electronic equipments were being quickly covered with rain getting heavier by the minute.