Bangalore, April 4 (IANS) The sixth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) T-20 tournament began on a high octane note here late Thursday with hosts Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) taking on Mumbai Indians (MI) in their opening encounter.
Sweating out in humid weather, about 30,000 die-hard fans flocked to the Chinnaswamy stadium in the city centre, with many carrying RCB flags, wearing the home team's jerseys or T-shirts and sporting its caps and colours on cheeks.
When Mumbai's captain Ricky Ponting won toss and elected to field, there was a mad rush at all gates as frenzied fans wanted to settle down quickly in their respective stands to watch RCB's explosive opener Chris Gayle in action.
Though the IPL season began on a late working day in this tech hub, there was no dearth of spectators to gatecrash, with organisers claiming that about 80 percent tickets for all stands across the stadium sold out in advance.
"As IPL is the flavour of the season for its sheer fun and entertainment, I have bought tickets for all matches that will be played here as I am an ardent fan of RCB, especially Gayle who is a pure joy to watch him hit fours and sixes at will," business executive Sharat Kumar told IANS in the stands.
Electrifying atmosphere & carnival mood rocks stadium
The opening league tie between hosts Royal Challengers and the high-profile Mumbai Indians with stars like Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Kiron Pollard, Rohit Sharma and Harbhajan Singh in the playing XI, an electrifying atmosphere rocked the stadium, as the bipartisan fans rooted for the rival team as much as for the home team and the cheer girls swayed to the rock music.
Though fans were not allowed to bring in musical instruments or other objects owing to tight security and frisking, there was no dearth of raw energy to create a carnival mood, cheering, waving, hooting, clapping and screaming whenever a boundary or a six was hit and a wicket fell.
"Watching such matches from stands under floodlights is exciting because a real atmosphere builds up and gets surcharged as the game unfolds and an intense battle between bat and ball ensues. Watching the same on television at home is passive and lacks the thrill that we get being in the middle of action," college student S. Mahalingam observed in the pavilion stand.
Chris Gayle steals the show again with mighty sixes and fours
True to his form and reputation, RCB's opener Chris Gayle proved once again why he is the most feared batsman in the IPL tournament.
Though the West Indian southpaw took time to settle down when RCB was asked to bat first and lost his opening partner Dilshan Tillakaratne in third over for a duck, the danger man played through the stipulated 20 overs and remained unbeaten with 92 from just 58 balls, mostly coming from five mighty sixes and 11 racy boundaries to the fence.
"It is heartening to watch the tall Gayle play at his best. He proved again what an invaluable player he is to the home team (RCB). But for him and his 76-run unbroken sixth wicket partnership in 44 balls with K.B. Arun Karthik, the team would not have put a defendable score against a stronger team like Mumbai's," beamed N. Sudhakar Kulkarni, an accountant in a local firm.
Harrowing time for city cops and vehicle users in tech hub
With all roads leading to the stadium through choked roads in downtown and thousand of fans hurrying to reach the venue for a pulsating game in cars and two-wheelers, about 1,000 policemen, including four DCP, 15 ACPs and 38 sub-inspectors had a harrowing time, as they had to regulate hundreds of vehicles jamming the thoroughfares and cramming for every inch of space to move.
"As the stadium is located in the central business district of the city and the match starting evening when office-goers and shoppers return home through peak-hour traffic, we had to not to only regulate the vehicular movement, but also restrict them from passing around the stadium and ban vehicle parking up to 1 km," a senior police official grumbled.
With the metro rail tunnel work blocking a major portion of Cubbon Road on the northern side of the stadium, vehicle users had an equally tough time to find parking space even beyond a km in downtown due to traffic snarls and gridlock.