India v Australia, Ranchi Test: Celebrate the struggle

Australia 451 (Smith 178*, Maxwell 104, Jadeja 5-124) and 204 for 6 (Handscomb 72*, Marsh 53, Jadeja 4-54) drew with India 603 for 9 declared (Pujara 202, Saha 117, Vijay 82, Cummins 4-106)


“Who what am I? My answer: I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each “I”, everyone of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you’ll have to swallow a world.”
-Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children


Ahh, India. Where a draw is a win is a loss is a draw and a twist is a turn is a switch is a change and a lead is a chase is a run is a minute.


Ahh, Ranchi. Where the series arrives hot and level at 1-1.


Ahh, Ranchi. Where an Australian first innings of enormity and gravitas and 451 (SPD Smith 178*, GJ Maxwell 104, RA Jadeja 5-124) is wondrously rapturously prematurely celebrated with stories of individuals ponderously and portentously outgrowing overshadowing eclipsing those of the team the team the very team itself (“Smith is a genius,” “Maxwell arrives”) and on the back of those heroics the match turns in Australia’s direction for winning and for keeping and all remaining days are cast as India’s to survive and yet, and yet, and yet. Whatif. Whatif. Whatif.


Ahh, Ranchi. With series level at 1-1 and with the angry combative forces leading India confusing conquest for victory and confusing aggression for tenacity and confusing arrogance for confidence and with reactionary combative forces leading Australia and confusing aggression for spirit and confusing attack for cricket itself and confusing itself of the very idea of stoicism and with a series and with pride and with gloating at stake and with slow motion replays and DRS referrals and cropped images and social media and trial by click and trial by share like retweet and entire young populations self-appointed as judge jury executioner rising falling searching for trumpeted opinion voice finding the latest outrage injustice calamity about which to clatter holler yell scream into the Ranchi ether Indian ether global ether rippling waving bumping floating crashing closing.


Ahh, Ranchi. Where chasing 451 the Indian XI even with a notably meagre contribution from the misguided and misinformed and misbehaving V Kohli complie an epic 603 for 9 declared (CA Pujara 202, WP Saha 117, M Vijay 82, PJ Cummins 4-106). CA Pujara facing an astonishing baffling Incredible 525 balls in anchoring the reply answer return and elevating himself above the plane occupied by mere mortals. And of the 210 overs bowled by Australia this innings, 206 bowled by four men. GJ Maxwell bowling the other four overs.


Ahh, Ranchi. Where eight overs remain on Day four at India’s declaration and the new old MT Renshaw and the known unknown DA Warner take the wicket with the uncharacteristic goal of survival safety security. DA Warner and his known unknown is good for 16 balls and nightwatchman NM Lyon narrowly performs his role by surviving into the last over before stumps and falling and at stumps Australia’s 2/32 looks irretrievably parlous dangerous fatal.


Ahh, Ranchi. With its swings and its roundabouts and its domination and its submission and its ebb and its flow. It is set up.


Ahh, Ranchi. Where a draw is a win is a loss is a draw and a twist is a turn is a switch is a change and a lead is a chase is a run is a minute.


Ahh, Ranchi. It is day five, where the S.S. MT Renshaw and his captain of unflappable countenance SPD Smith navigate the rolling swell and rogue spitting waves of RA Jadeja and R Ashwin to drinks and nudge creep poke the score along at a trickle drip slide.


Ahh, Ranchi. It is day five, and MT Renshaw is lbw before lunch bringing maligned criticised chastened SE Marsh to the wicket in the most hostile torturous fiery of Test cricket circumstances. He must survive. And next over SPD Smith shoulders arms and is bowled bowled bowled before lunch bringing now PSP Handscomb to the wicket and this is indeed a baptism right here right now. He must survive. Thirty minutes to lunch.


Ahh, Ranchi, Where millions of expert eyeballs watch the slow carving of the Australian carcass and the slow burn of the Australian meat and the slow inevitable browning of the Australian psyche. When would the slash come? When would the false shot come? It is lunch.


Ahh, Ranchi. Where screws are tightened and bolts are tightened and clamps are tightened and SE Marsh and PSP Handscomb bat on. And on. And India decide choose opt to review a decision against SE Marsh and that review itself is struck down unleashing a Twitter storm of outrage. With stoicism and single-mindedness unprecedented this century, it is incredibly Australia offering stout resistance and it is outrageously SE Marsh filling the role with aplomb and it is happily PSP Handscomb filling the role with aplomb. It is tea.



Ahh, Ranchi. Where one session remains. Australia 4/149. And one over back india decide choose opt to review a decision against PSP Handscomb and the review is itself struck down causing not only a Twitter storm but leaving India now with no reviews until the 80th over some ten overs hence. And still SE Marsh and PSP Handscomb bat. They bat and they bat and they bat. They bat for survival and for a victory of sorts. It would be a victory of non-defeat. A victory of maintaining a chance to win the series.


Ahh, Ranchi. Where another review after the 80th over and after the second new ball is struck down and SE Marsh and PSP Handscomb are now seen to be occupying that rarefied place of athletic endeavour effort struggle: where struggle is the thing. To be in the moment. To be in the struggle. To recognise and relish and acknowledge the struggle for what it is, and for only what it is: a struggle.


Ahh, Ranchi. And past the last drinks break they grind on on this day five and feel the straps of the struggle and feel the weight of the struggle and feel the lightness of the struggle and dance shuffle step into the lengthening shadows. And it is only with shadows prohibitively long that SE Marsh falls and rapidly GJ Maxwell falls. But the game is over. The game is saved. The game is not won. The game is not lost. The series is not won. The series is not lost.


Ahh, Ranchi. For all the rolling broiling steaming efforts of SPD Smith, GJ Maxwell, RA Jadeja, CA Pujara, WP Saha, M Vijay, PJ Cummins, SE Marsh, PSP Handscomb, we remain at 1-1. Where now could this lofty cricket series turn for its conclusion? Where now could host the final match of a series to have reached such heights? Only a ground in the Himalayan foothills would suffice. Only grandstands that look to have been inspired by Dr Seuss would be apt. Onto Dharamsala.




Ahh, Test cricket.


About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Brilliant ER. What other game celebrates nuance like cricket? What other game has countless victories and losses within it before a draw is decided; like two boxers falling to the canvas after fifteen rounds,exhausted and beaten and yet triumphant?

    The Aussies looked knackered on several occasions but found something. They are playing for the captain. That makes them dangerous.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Wonderful words ER. Wonderful, wonderful Test match. Fabulous, hard fought series. Loving every minute.
    SE Marsh & PSP Handscomb stood up brilliantly on Day 5.
    Bring on Dharamsala. A draw is a draw is a win for us there. Go Aussies.

  3. Nice write-up, e.r.
    There is truly no other game like Test cricket.
    And this series has truly surpassed expectations.

    The Australian first innings total was always going to be light on.

  4. Bob Utber says

    From vanilla slice, baguettes and croissants Daavid , greeting
    A wonderful summary of a game in what has been a wonderful series. Test Cricket survives again to go on to bigger and better things
    Absolutely right Smokie.
    Only interruption will be the GEelong Cats v Freo from Moi.

    E.Regnans don,t think I can get the above items through customs.
    See you all at Subi.

  5. E.regnans says

    Good one Dips. Countless victories and losses along the road to… where?
    Personal introspection?
    Team growth?
    This certainly appears as a team united.
    I wonder how the MS Wade/ GJ Maxwell dynamic is playing out on a tour of India. The pettiness of a comfortable home life drops away in the face of hardship?
    Bring on Dharamsala, indeed, Luke.
    How will V Kohli approach things, I wonder? Fire and brimstone, or the wailing of the wronged each have a limited shelf life. Glorious sweeping shots of Himalayan peaks… will never tire of those.
    I saw you posting about the below-par Australian first innings at the time, Smokie.
    But very impressive resolve and execution by India to haul it in – and pass it.
    I wonder if the innings of SPD Smith, PSP Handscomb and SE Marsh will alter perceptions around “what successful batting looks like.”
    Wonderful, testing sport.
    Why did GJ Maxwell bowl only 4 of 210 overs?

    Bonjour Citrus – have a baguette & croissant for me.
    What a life this is.

    Thanks all. Have a great day.

  6. John Butler says

    A little something you whipped up on your birthday, E Reg? Good stuff.

    It has been as instructive observing reactions back here as much of the cricket, gripping though that has been. All the pre-match hysteria about pitch conspiracies came to naught. No shortage of runs for those who applied themselves, and a game that went five days comfortably.

    And so much of the Kohli fuss feels like Ranatunga, et al revisited. We like to dish it out. We don’t much like taking it.

    The narratives surrounding Australia-India contests nowadays are fascinating.


  7. Paddy Grindlay says

    Test cricket!

    That’s what we want!

    This next one will be interesting.

  8. Fast, bouncy pitch in Dharamsala apparently. What price D. Warner to top score in the first dig?

  9. Dave Brown says

    So, do those who market sport think cricket is about hitting fours and sixes and smashing stumps or do they just think that’s the common denominator (lowest or otherwise)? Or is it that the truly compelling bit about sport, the contest, is conceptually too difficult? Hopefully Dharamsala provides a fitting conclusion to the series. The backdrop is certainly worthy of it.

  10. E.regnans says

    Thoughtful points as always, JB.
    It’s difficult to insulate from the prevailing narratives, but it’s relatively easy to step outside of them for a look. I agree. Fascinating.
    I was on another plane on Tuesday – but maybe this was burbling away undercover.
    As always, I know nothing.


    Good stuff Paddy. Thanks so very much for your Day 1 story – got us out of the blocks beautifully.

    Dips – interesting.
    Bowlers will be feeling it after the marathon session last weekend.
    What do we do with UT Khawaja? He’s probable capable of bowling four (or even five) overs of a 210 over innings.

    Probably money is the answer there for those marketers, D Brown. But a sustainable, everlasting golden goose -style of money production would be best, if you don’t mind.
    Part of the struggle may include the very staging and playing and even watching of games; many of which are desultory or one-sided or both. We were arguing on the weekend about whether one needs to feel hardship to appreciate bounty. Or even whether one who has experienced hardship appreciates times of bounty to a greater extent than someone who has not experienced hardship.
    Who knows?
    But a series like this doesn’t come around all that often.
    More gob-smacking photos on various player/ journo twitter feeds today.
    Very envious.

  11. Plenty of evidence now that Smith does not rate Maxwell’s bowling. Exhibit A: Aus v Pak ODIs when Maxi didn’t bowl 1 over in 5 games. Exhibit B: Ranchi (although Smith may have been a little churlish bowling him for only 4 overs). Which is fine – because Maxwell’s future is as a top 6 batsman, and his first innings in Ranchi shows that this is possible.

    Ha ha, all this talk about the pitch. It reminds me of a recent Test somewhere where every Australian (player, journo etc etc) was fretting about the wicket and how it was “rolled mud” and a “disgrace”. Funnily enough, the game lasted until stumps on Day 5. Ah, it was Ranchi…..

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