The (not so) grand opening
It was a protracted affair, compared to the snappier curtain raisers of the last two years. In the previous two seasons, it took only half an hour to get to the cricket, which seemed about right. But on Friday, the opening sequence dragged on for nearly an hour: it included music from Lalit Modi's youth rather than the present day, and pyrotechnics that nobody could make sense of. There was the obligatory Bollywood performance (actor Deepika Padukone danced) and it seemed like the main event would never begin. The toss was delayed too, which annoyed some fans, before Sourav Ganguly and Adam Gilchrist finally walked out to set the ball rolling.
They were being called fossils. Could Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Mathew Hayden, Chaminda Vaas, and Anil Kumble, who aren't active on the international circuit anymore, cope with the rigour of Twenty20 and motivate themselves to compete with men virtually half their age? The first game dispelled any doubts over the hunger Vaas and Gilchrist possess.
Most of the Deccan batsmen struggled to convert starts but Gilchrist didn't, executing his strokes with confidence. It was not merely his quick reflexes, he just walked down the pitch and hit the ball in the areas where he wanted the ball go, successfully negating the bowlers' tactics.
Another veteran who was spot on was Vaas. The Sri Lankan's first two overs were lessons in the art of swing bowling any youngster would do well to learn. Vaas curved the ball at will, but without overdoing it. Even during his best years Vaas never relied on pace, instead he used his wrists to shape the ball in the air like the ribbon - he had watched his hero Wasim Akram do the same - and became an expert at buying wickets on the lifeless subcontinent pitches.
Doubts have already been raised about the merit of having two interruptions in an innings. This season's two-and-a-half minute intervals are more towel or bathroom breaks compared to the seven-minute version of last year, which Sachin Tendulkar and Gilchrist were sceptical about because they felt it broke the momentum of the dominating side. Play resumed smoothly after each of the four time-outs today.
A mature telecast
The camera cutting to a celebrity, a team owner or Lalit Modi as soon as the ball reached the boundary, or when a wicket fell, was repeated ad nauseum in the first two years. So it was pleasing to see the camera stay focussed primarily on the game, an indication perhaps that the cricket and the IPL brand was the bigger attraction than the VIPs at the venue.
Don't expect packed stadiums
Modi's ambition of making the IPL - essentially an Indian domestic tournament - the biggest league in the world is well known. The IPL has become family entertainment and the fans flocked to the opening game from far-flung places like Jalgaon and even Hyderabad. A few hundred drove in from neighbouring Pune too. And yet the DY Patil Stadium was only about 70% full. It's going to be difficult to attract a full house consistently because the IPL is entertainment and many fans would prefer watching it on the television rather than taking the pains of going to the venue virtually empty handed due to the high security, which is a deterrent. Fans were not allowed to bring in anything, including mobile phones, and had to stand in long-winding queues because of the numerous frisking posts, before reaching their seat. No amount of publicity is going to make up for that necessary nuisance.