NEW DELHI • The 10th season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) starts today, marking a decade of scandal and success for the flashy Twenty20 competition beloved by India and watched across the globe.
The latest edition of the glitzy cricket league - famous for its pyrotechnics, cheerleaders and huge signing bonuses - gets under way with defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad hosting Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Since its debut in 2008, the shorter-format league has evolved into India's most popular sporting event, filling stadiums and attracting TV audiences well beyond those enjoyed by Test and one-day competitions in the cricket-mad sub-continent.
"Its unique selling proposition is that most of the stadiums are packed, and it is being watched around the world," IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla said.
Its appeal has outlasted numerous controversies - most notably corruption and match-fixing charges - that at times have raised more eyebrows than the showy theatrics on the pitch.
Despite a litany of off-field troubles, the league has never struggled to attract foreign talent.
A host of international stars have become household names in India, shaping their careers on the IPL stage or resurrecting former glories.
England pace bowler Tymal Mills, 24, recently inked a US$1.8 million (S$2.5 million) contract with Bangalore, despite having played just four T20 internationals.
Countryman Ben Stokes, who joined Rising Pune Supergiant for more than US$2 million, said the IPL was an opportunity unavailable in England, where the format is not yet franchised.
"A big reason for coming out here is to get that exposure and try and take the Twenty20 game to new level," the 25-year-old said.
Deals for up-and-coming stars are also growing, with Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan signed by Sunrisers for 40 million rupees (S$860,000) - the most ever offered to a player from an associate (non-Test playing) nation.
Khan and team-mate Mohammad Nabi will be the first players from their country to play in the IPL, highlighting the league's ever-expanding global appeal.
The tournament ends on May 21 with the final in Hyderabad.