BANGALORE, India -- The lucrative Indian Premier League was launched with an elaborate opening ceremony ahead of the inaugural match between Bangalore Royal Challengers and Kolkata Knight Riders.
Rahul Dravid is embraced by Sourav Ganguly but they will be opposing captains on Friday.
Organizers of the eight-team Twenty20 competition promised show business razzmatazz to signal the start of a cricketing revolution which has attracted many of the leading players in the world on massive retainers.
Bollywood stars mixed with the elite of Indian society to watch a colorful show that featured lights, music, stilt walkers and acrobats.
The 55,000 sellout crowd then settled down to the opening match of a six-week tournament which sees the respective franchises playing each other in a round-robin format ahead semifinals and the final in Mumbai on June 1.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) has received official sanction by the world governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), but traditionalists are fearful it will undermine the longer form of the game such as five-day Test matches which are contested by countries.
In England, leading players have been prevented from playing in the IPL because it clashes with start of the county championship season, a situation labeled as "ridiculous" by star batsman Kevin Pietersen, who was reportedly offered $4 million to take part.
National team captain Michael Vaughan has also warned that the current stance of the England and Wales cricket board (ECB) may be untenable.
"I've seen a few of the previews over in India with the adverts and the billboards, and it looks like it is going to be a big event," Vaughan said.
"If there are big grounds, and there is a lot of money involved, you're going to want to play in it. I think it will be sooner rather than later that we will see England players playing in the IPL."
Dimitri Mascarenhas is the only England player taking part in the inaugural season, but the one-day allrounder is not centrally contracted to the ECB, giving him greater leeway.
There is also talk of a new league being established in England, possibly backed by American billionaire Allen Stanford, an ardent cricket supporter.
For the time being, the focus will be on the IPL and the exploits of cricket greats such as Australian captain Ricky Ponting, spin legend Shane Warne and South African allrounder Jacques Kallis.
The teams are captained by Indian Test stars such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar. The first match pits Rahul Dravid's Bangalore team, who boast Kallis in their ranks, against Sourav Ganguly's Kolkata lineup, who have Ponting to call on.
An estimated TV audience of 250 million in India alone is expected to watch the first match and advertising and endorsement opportunities for the players are set to flood in if it proves a success.
The match itself ended in a comfortable 140-run victory for the visiting Kolkata Knight Riders, capped by a remarkable innings from New Zealand's Brendon McCullum, who hit 158 not out. E-mail to a friend