ABU DHABI - MS Dhoni danced with Shah Rukh Khan, Shane Watson strummed the guitar, Virat Kohli performed a mock 'wedding' with a cut-out of good-friend Anushka Sharma and Deepika Padukone added spark to a glittering night as the Indian Premier League made a typically glamorous start in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. With so much controversy around the tournament, the IPL chose to keep the event a 'private' affair and far away from media spotlight.
The Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi shone like a star on Tuesday evening. The players let their hair down ahead of a gruelling event that will see the world's best cricketers in action for almost two months.
After the spot-fixing scam erupted last year and the Supreme Court suspended BCCI boss N. Srinivasan, the plan to keep the blitz 'low-key' was understandable. After all, Sunil Gavaskar, the BCCI's interim chief (IPL affairs), wants IPL 7 to be remembered only for cricket, nothing else.
Shah Rukh, whose team Kolkata Knight Riders, play the tournament's first game against defending champions Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night, was the lead man on the stage. He danced, he joked and the cricketers just had some great fun. The world got to know two big 'secrets' - that Watson is an accomplished guitarist and that Kohli and Anushka are 'walking' on the highway of love. If the men are having fun, how can their lady loves be far behind. Wasim Akram, back as KKR's bowling brain this season, was seen with his Australian wife Shaneira and Cheteshwar Pujara walked in with his less-than-a-year-old wife, Puja. Sachin Tendulkar, looking dapper in a suit, blended effortlessly with India's most powerful industrial family, the Ambanis.
But the limelight was stolen yet again by Dhoni. His appearance alongside Shah Rukh and Deepika would easily have won the moment of the evening award, if there was one. The Chennai Super Kings' captain, under the scanner for alleged links with bookies, showed why he is called Captain Cool. Cricketers and Bollywood, just like in the Eighties, took the desert by storm.