Dhaka, Feb 17: Rock star Bryan Adams provided the sparks as a dazzling opening ceremony, showcasing a vibrant blend of sub-continental traditions and modernity, today launched the 10th edition of the cricket World Cup, setting the stage for 43 days of high-voltage cricketing extravaganza.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the event open amid thundering cheers from a packed crowd at the renovated Bangabandhu stadium, marking the return of the showpiece event to the sub-continent after a gap of 15 years.
The evening sky lit up with spectacular fireworks as the high-profile 14-team competition was declared open in front of a host of dignitaries and top ICC and Cricket Board officials.
Captains of all the 14 participating nations got an unforgettable ride on tri-cycles while music, folk songs and dances, breath-taking fireworks and the collective enthusiasm of the Bangladeshi capital ushered in the event in a two-hour spectacle.
Bryan Adams' mesmerising act was the highlight of the show that also had Indian musicians Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy belting out the World Cup theme song 'De Ghuma Ke' composed by the trio.
Indian playback singer Sonu Nigam and top Bangladeshi vocalists -- Runa Laila, Sabina Yasmin and Mumtaz – also crooned in front of a capacity crowd which was treated to a musical extravaganza in three languages -- English, Hindi and Bangla.
Singer Ebrar Tipu and others set the tone for the evening as he arrived in a bedecked car to sing the welcome song, "O Prithibi, Ebar Eshey Banglake Nao Chiney…" (Hey world, come and know Bangladesh).
All the 14 captains came into the arena on decorated rickshaws with Australian captain Ricky Ponting coming in first followed by the other captains.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni drew a loud applause while the biggest cheer was reserved for host captain Shakib Al Hasan as he waved to the crowd.
After all the captains assembled on the specially erected dias, Indian singer Sonu Nigam then rendered the "Spirit of Cricket' song.
After the speeches by top officials, including ICC President Sharad Pawar who spoke a few lines in Bangla, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the event open, setting the stage for Adams and other celebrated artistes to enthrall the audience.
A breath-taking aerial cricket match, played horizontally on a building, kept the spectators spellbound.
Nearly 2,100 school and college students and 350 members of the Armed Forces presented a cultural programme depicting the glorious Language Movement, War of Liberation, Bangladesh's founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's historic March 7 speech, Bangla New Year and traditional dance of the indigenous communities.
Adams then took centrestage with some of his all-time hits like "Lets make it a night to remember", "Summer of '69", and "18 till I die" among others.
Barely 10 years after being given the Test status, it was a giant leap for Bangladesh as a nation as the minnows, known to pull off stunning wins in big events, hosted perhaps the biggest sporting show so far in their history.
Two days later, Bangladesh and co-hosts India will clash in the inaugural game at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur 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.
Sub-continent, for all practical purposes, is the nerve centre of the game now, though 1992 champions Pakistan could not be one of the co-hosts due to the terror attacks that targetted touring Sri Lankan cricketers in 2009.
But Bangladesh will be having one big 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 the right to host 14 matches due to the volatile condition in the country though the country will get its share of revenue even without holding games.
There were minor hiccups even after that when Kolkata's historic Eden Gardens lost the hosting rights for the February 27 India-England clash after the ICC found the venue ill-prepared.
With any marquee match involving India not scheduled in the Eden after the ICC shifted teh India-England match to Bangalore, cricket lovers will not see the stadium at its magnificent best as not many can be expected in the one lakh-capacity venue for non-India match.
On current form and considering the conditions, India have been billed 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 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. PTI