So yesterday S. managed to unearth a website that was showing a live cricket stream, and it happened that she'd found the final match of the Indian Premier League tournament. Not that she needed to do anything else to impress me, but she'd succeeded yet again. ;)
It's probably impossible to overstate how thoroughly India have embraced cricket in general; and in particular the new faster-paced variant called Twenty20, a version of the sport so flashy that even the venerable Gray Lady felt compelled to take notice when India's national side won the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup. (To put 'flashy' into perspective: a standard Test match, of course, involves several hundred overs and can last up to five days; whereas Twenty20 matches, as the name implies, last only 20 overs per side and can be completed in a bit less than three hours. Baseball games, which average a similar duration, are derided in some quarters as lethargic beyond all hope. I digress.)
So yesterday's final between the Rajasthan Royals and the Chennai Super Kings (and the prevalence of references to monarchy in the team names is no accident) gave us an alternate form of that passion: using big money and glamour as the draw in place of national-team interest, as the IPL pitted national teammates against each other and paid them quite handsomely for the effort. (It varies a bit what the average professional cricketer earns normally, but barring endorsements, it seems to be the kind of salary that your well-to-do neighbor might take home.)
The final ended up with quite the dramatic finish (although the story stretches a bit in the retelling; the "cut-price" Rajasthani payroll was nonetheless immense for a six-week tournament, and no one will ever mistake Shane Warne for an underdog). And you can now hear the laments about the influence of money in the sport (some barmy American is plotting an English equivalent to the IPL, but mostly the big cash is denominated in rupees); how much of that is true sporting purism, and how much simple reactionary grousing, is an exercise left for the reader, as they say.