Page last updated at 15:59 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Indian Premier League under way amid heavy security

File picture of IPL match
The tournament has become very popular with cricket fans

The third season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the lucrative 20-20 cricket tournament, is under way in the city of Mumbai.

Eight teams are participating in the tournament which has been overshadowed by security concerns - IPL authorities have defended the arrangements.

Hyderabad, which won the second season, takes on Calcutta in the first of 60 matches in the 43-day tournament.

The tournament was opened by a laser show and dance performances.

Some of the world's top cricketers are taking part in the lucrative tournament.

BBC Sport's Alex Capstick in Mumbai (Bombay) says the brash and glitzy IPL has become a multi billion dollar industry and an established event in the cricket calendar in just two years.

Bollywood owners

The games are distinctive for introducing entertainment on the field, including Bollywood music and cheerleaders for the teams. Some tickets cost up to 50,000 rupees ($1,100), and film screens show the games.

The Calcutta team, owned by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, has won only nine of the 28 previous IPL matches, and begin as underdogs in Friday night's game.

The Hyderabad team, which finished last in the opening season, emerged as the surprise winners in the second season, which was played in South Africa because of security concerns at home.

There are eight England players in this season's IPL - Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan, who miss the first three weeks because of the Bangladesh tour, and Graham Napier, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Owais Shah, Michael Lumb and Ravi Bopara, who will be there for the duration.

Security threats

The third season of the tournament has been overshadowed by concerns over security and a controversy over the non-inclusion of Pakistani players in any of the eight teams.

A news website had published a message reported to be from the 313 Brigade, an operational arm of al-Qaeda, that threatened the IPL, Commonwealth Games and Hockey World Cup, all of which are being held in India.

This followed a threat against Australian players competing in the IPL from the right-wing Hindu group Shiv Sena.

IPL authorities have said that everything was being done to make the tournament secure, although they conceded that "nobody in the world can safeguard the safety of the players in any tournament".

IPL commissioner Lalit Modi has told BBC Sport the threat from Shiv Sena had been withdrawn and he defended security arrangements for the IPL.

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