Two days before the actual action gets underway, the second Indian Premier League got off to a rousing start here today with some of the best cricketers and Bollywood actors lending sheen to the gala event.
Colourful tableaux of eight IPL franchisees passed the city centre with fans lining up either side of the roads to get a glimpse of the cricket and entertainment glitterati who converged for the 59-match carnival starting on Saturday.
Having arranged the logistics in just three weeks’ time after the event was shifted out of India, IPL commissioner Lalit Modi said he was happy to have overcome the challenge.
“It was a huge challenge but we turned it into an opportunity. The South African government and the cricket board went out of their way to help us and made it a national event,” a beaming Modi said.
“We got approvals in minutes, not even in hours. Everything went extremely smooth and it’s amazing to put everything in place in such a short time,” he said.
Celebrity team owners Shah Rukh Khan (Kolkata Knight Riders), Preity Zinta (King’s XI Punjab) and Shilpa Shetty (Rajasthan Royals) raised the glamour quotient of the carnival while the players seemed thoroughly impressed.
Delhi Daredevils’ new recruit David Warner was amazed by the reception and the explosive Australian said he could not wait to get going.
“It’s an amazing city with amazing people. This is completely unbelievable.
“For me, this is a golden opportunity to play with people I looked up to and I can’t wait for it to start,” he said.
Former South African Test player Jonty Rhodes, now a fielding coach with Mumbai Indians, said the entire country was looking forward to the event.
“As a South African, I’m really excited that IPL is taking place here. A great deal has been happening in the country and we all are looking forward to it,” he said.
Mumbai Indian pacer Zaheer Khan too shared his enthusiasm and said, “I can sense there is a lot of excitement here and it’s always great to play in a different country.”
Sourav Ganguly, who led Kolkata Knight Riders last year, said it would be difficult to match last year’s frenzy but felt people would come in large numbers to watch the matches.
“It would have been altogether different had it been in India but I think people will come in good numbers for one month of entertaining cricket,” said the former India captain.
Asked what fans can expect from the Knight Riders, Ganguly said, “We’ll play well and try our best to entertain the Indian and South African fans.”
Retired Australian Adam Gilchrist, who led Deccan Chargers for major part of last year’s event, was also impressed by the huge response and promised a better display this time.
“We were clearly not at our best last year but we learnt from it. This year, we have brought some enthusiastic youngsters and all are eager to do well here,” he said.
“South Africa has always been the perfect host and this is yet another opportunity for them to host a world class event,” Gilchrist observed.