(Video: Sneha May Francis)
It was all about star power, and a little bit of cricket, at the Dubai International Stadium last evening.
With Bollywood superstar Salman Khan and Malayalam movie icon Mohanlal spinning their magic at the Celebrity Cricket League (CCL) Season 3, turning the event into a seven-hour carnival of sorts that was peppered with Bollywood kitsch.
The purists might baulk at how cricket takes a backstage for Bollywood, but it kept the 9,000-odd star-struck crowd thoroughly entertained. They, in fact, cheered their favourite actors to victory.
While Salman Khan didn’t play the game, making only a brief appearance towards the middle of the second innings, Mohanlal was on the field sweating it out.
Both their teams won last evening at the qualifying series in the twenty-20 format as they bid to win the coveted CCL cup.
Salman’s Mumbai Heroes beat reigning champions Chennai Rhinos by 19 runs, while Mohanlal’s Kerala Strikers defeated Bengal Tigers by a staggering 147-run victory.
Despite making a delayed entry on the field, Salman proved lucky for his teammates, as they won their first match of the season.
Mumbai Heroes is captained by Suneil Shetty, who was awarded the glamour power player, while Chennai Rhinos is led by Vishal. Bobby Deol walked away with the best bowler trophy.
Salman’s Dubai fans, however, didn’t have much reason to celebrate.
In spite of waiting for hours on end to see their star, their access was blocked as he remained tightly guarded by his army of beefy security personnel, with anyone without any celeb clout treated with scrutiny.
As soon as Salman sauntered in around 10.30pm, the crowd erupted in loud cheers, shifting their focus from the cricket pitch to him.
They applauded and chanted his name, as he chatted away nonchalantly with his celeb buddies.
There were sporadic waves at the crowd, but that’s all.
This was a stark contrast to his indulgent self during last year’s CCL appearance in Sharjah, where he watched the match studiously and even stepped out to talk to his fans.
But, this year, he remained tight-lipped, and only handed over the ‘man of the match’ trophy to his team’s Shabbir Ahluwalia.
For the thousands who had stepped out to see the charming Khan, this was a letdown. At least, it was for us.
The Khan glitch wasn’t all that spoilt the fun at this season’s CCL.
The Chennai Rhinos-Mumbai Heroes match was pitched at an abysmal pace, leaving the audience tired and exhausted. There was an untimely injury to actor Sonu Sood that further delayed the proceedings.
Earlier in the day, the first match, between Kerala Strikers and Bengal Tigers, was far more exciting, with Mohanlal’s team making a staggering 147 runs.
Nivin Paul won the Karbon Kamal Catch, while the Godrej most efficient player went to Rakendhu. Rajeev Pillai was the star player of the evening, walking away with the power player and man of the match trophies.
Mohanlal also won his dues as he walked away with the glamorous power player honour.
Conducted by cricketing legend Charu Sharma, the ceremony was unfortunately muted to the audience, with only visual images of Jeet, Mohanlal and Indrajit flashing on the big screen.
It took a few minutes on YouTube, late at night, to finally decipher how Mohanlal summed up the reason behind their astounding win to their “team spirit”.
That apart, the celeb quotient was impressive with Kangana Ranaut, Chitrangada Singh and Narghis Fakhri turning on their charm as cheerleaders for the Mumbai Heroes. There was also tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi and actor Jackky Bhagnani stepping in on cheering duty.
Filmmaker Boney Kapoor, his actress-wife Sridevi and two lovely daughters supported their Bengal Tigers, while a bevy of Tamil actresses and Bengal Tigers supporters ensured their teams weren’t ignored either.
The Kerala Strikers also packed an impressive celeb squad with Mamta Mohandas and team owner Lissy Priyadarshan.
All in all, this could’ve made for far better TV viewing.