Dhaka: The ICC Cricket World Cup is set to be ushered in with a grand opening ceremony here on Thursday as the game's showpiece event returns to the sub-continent after 15 years, shrugging off the controversy of Eden Gardens being stripped off a marquee match, involving co-hosts India.
The Bangladeshi capital, which has spruced up itself for the biggest event in their cricketing history, will take centrestage of the cricketing world with a two-hour spectacle of song, dance and laser shows at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Internationally-acclaimed rock star Bryan Adams, Indian singing trio of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Sonu Nigam will be among the performers to set the stage for the tournament, reflecting the increasing role the entertainment aspect has started to be associated with the game.
Two days later, Bangladesh and co-hosts India clash in the inaugural game at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium at Mirpur, on Dhaka's outskirts to herald the beginning of 43 days of action spread across 13 venues in three countries.
The other host country Sri Lanka start off their campaign against lowly Canada in a Group A encounter in Colombo on Sunday.
The sub-continent had its first date with the World Cup when India and Pakistan hosted it in 1987 before Sri Lanka joined them in 1996.
It is befitting that the World Cup will be held in the sub-continent this time when the region establishes itself as the nerve centre of the game, though 1992 champions Pakistan will not be one of the co-hosts and Bangladesh will be in the party in their silver jubilee year of initiation into one-day cricket.
The tenth edition of cricket's quadrennial showpiece, featuring 14 teams and 49 matches -- 29 in India, a dozen in Sri Lanka and eight in Bangladesh -- was not devoid of controversies.
It had a nightmare of an initial road as Pakistan was stripped of its rights to host 14 matches due to the volatile condition in the country, mainly after attack on the Sri Lankan players in Lahore in early 2009 though it will get its share of revenue even without holding matches.
The reasons for stripping Pakistan of the World Cup matches by the ICC had nothing much to do with the country's cricket board but it could not be said in the case of Indian authorities who failed to prepare the iconic Eden Gardens ready for the February 27 match between India and England.
With any marquee match involving India not scheduled in the Eden after the ICC shifted the India-England match to Bangalore, cricket lovers will not see the stadium in its magnificent best with nearly one lakh people turning up for a World Cup game and it is pity for a venue of such a fame.
On current form and considering the conditions, India have been billed as the top favourites by cricket experts and it would be a huge celebration for Indian fans if Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men lift the trophy on April 2 at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
It would add to India's aura to its already muscle-flexing power as cricket's financial centre.
A World Cup win by India will also ensure the iconic batsman Sachin Tendulkar the only success that has eluded him in his illustrious over two decade long international career, besides India bringing home the trophy after 28 years.
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