Vasudha Venugopal and Sowmiya Ashok catch the action as stars descend for inaugural

The players practised, the stars rehearsed, the cops remained on their toes as the city waited for curtains to go up on the cricket extravaganza that will light up their evenings for the next two months.

On Monday, Taj Coromandel, which is usually a quiet spot on Nungambakkam High Road, gave away the inconspicuous look with police vehicles lined up in front of the hotel and a posse of policemen stationed at its gates. The hotel, after all, is playing host to celebrities who arrived in Chennai for the inauguration of the DLF-Indian Premier League 2012 on Tuesday.

The incessant buzz in the hotel's lobby was interrupted every now and then with an expectant stare at the elevators — as if Big B was suddenly going to appear for a spontaneous photo shoot. At 4.20 p.m., American singer Katy Perry, made a brief appearance in the lobby. Wearing a long summery dress and with her hair dyed blue, the singer, surrounded by an entourage, posed for a few photographs and gave away some autographs.

“I am not doing any interviews,” she said, as she plucked a colourful bindi from a selection held out by a companion. “I am going to go see Chennai right now,” she declared and made her way out of the side-entrance.

Katy Perry is just one celebrity who landed in the city for the inaugural event. The inaugural show on Tuesday will start with Amitabh Bachchan introducing the nine IPL teams, followed by the star-studded show that will include performances by Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Salman Khan, Prabhudeva and Colonial Cousins.

The gala event at the YMCA College of Physical Education will also feature all the nine team captains taking the MCC Spirit of Cricket pledge. “Last year, the event was held at the stadium. This time, it has been scaled up and the audience will be much closer to the stage,” said an organiser. On Monday, the massive stage on Monday was covered with glowing silver curtains, massive cut-outs and fitting lights. One could hear the odd drummer's impromptu performance and the numerous microphones being adjusted from afar.

Those who happened to be at the venue in the evening were the most ecstatic. “We saw Amitabhji rehearsing. He was speaking about the teams and also narrated a poem by Prasoon Joshi,” said Sajin R, a resident of the students' hostel at YMCA College.

Security measures

“We had fans sneaking in all day. Some keep waiting for long hours, but we are getting good support from the police,” said Bharani Chander, who is coordinating the security at the event.

Even residents of YMCA hostels have been asked to wear their ‘residential IPL passes.' Nearly 800 policemen have been deployed at the YMCA College as well as the Chepauk stadium, where the two teams playing the inaugural match practised on Monday. “We will ensure there is more than adequate security,” police commissioner J.K. Tripathy told TheHindu.

Some distance away from the stage, three workers diligently worked on creating the palanquin that is likely to Katy Perry onto the stage. “We are fitting mirror-studs on it. I think she will do a bridal dance to some Hindi song,” said P. Ramachandran, one of the craftsmen.

All the performers were allotted slots for the rehearsal and could be seen getting the finishing steps right. The five-star canteen backstage supplied food and beverages at regular intervals and they seemed to get over in no time. “The focus, this year, is on technology and the quality of production of the inaugural event. We have the best of the performers this time,” said Sabbas Joseph, director, Wizcraft International Entertainment.

Cricket enthusiasts like Vikram Vivekanand made sure he was at the stadium to watch the practice sessions. By 7 p.m., he had promptly updated his Facebook status message to: Watching the Chennai and Mumbai teams practicing for the IPL, from the pavilion at MCC. “I saw Sachin walk back to the nets a couple of times,” he gushed.

Other fans are busy making their arrangements for the 76 matches that will be played at 12 venues across the country in the run-up to the finals on May 27 — to be held in the city. From proudly displaying their yellow Chennai Super Kings T-shirts with the legend, ‘I roar for the Super Kings' to working on social media forums to celebrate the Chennai Super Kings fan song, they have every aspect covered.

As far as die-hard fans of celebrities go, there certainly was one young woman, who was getting cosy in her chair for the second day in a row at the Taj Coromandel.

“I was sitting here for three hours yesterday hoping to see Amitabh sir,” she said. With all the staring at the elevator, she concluded he is staying on the seventh floor. “All I want to do is give him a book I have written and take a picture with him.” Big B, meanwhile, was expected to meet Rajinikanth either late on Monday evening or on Tuesday morning.

Keywords: IPL-V

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