Unexpected closeness of India v Australia creates compelling fireworks

A week ago, the New Yorker posited that we are all living in a computer that has lost its mind. Simulation theory has had non-Wachowski currency for at least 15 years: basically that an infinite universe would contain life forms advanced enough to create simulated universes; and that the odds of being a living creature within a vast number of simulations are much higher than being one in the universe that seeded them.

The breakdown theory points to recent events in our existence that could be simulation glitches. A reality-TV bully is handed control of the world’s biggest arsenal; a shifting kaleidoscope of warring coalitions tears Syria apart; the wrong movie gets an Oscar while overseers freeze and watch the speeches; and two Australian spin bowlers take 27 of 30 Indian wickets on dry creekbeds while their batting team-mates find a way to prosper.

Of course, by the second half of the Bangalore Test, things had levelled out. In the cricket, any rate. The home side finally assembled a partnership, set enough of a lead, and brought fourth-innings bowling pressure to bear to eventually close out a classic. But still. This is not how things were supposed to be. There is a scoreline set at 1-1. There is interest and intrigue in every move. There is more anticipation for something in Ranchi than that city has ever known. A series supposed to have the spark and energy of a state funeral procession instead feels like that last pre-cascade moment at the bottom of a popcorn pan.

This Australian team, so recently rebuilt, was supposed be disassembled. Interest would vanish by the second bad day. Australian media would turn its March attention to the million pre-season games of the various football codes sponsored by indistinguishable acronyms at far-flung suburban grounds. Instead we have a series brought to life by lightning strike, one that can only be decided in the final game in Dharamsala. If India win the third Test, Australia can still retain the trophy. Australia win the third, India can deny them the series. Rain or a draw first up makes the final game a straight shootout for series and trophy both. Suddenly cricket is not fighting for space in the papers.

It’s that unexpected closeness – the heat and pressure of a big Indian loss first-up, then a brilliantly close-fought second contest – that has created fireworks on the field. The evaporation of calm and composure, the furious emotion. Two captains at each other all day, then carrying it on in their press conferences. Virat Kohli, all spiky angles in haircut and stubble and edge of tongue, abrasive and combative. Steve Smith’s sweat-soaked hair held back with a headband as he yanked his helmet off for the most guttural of his many century celebrations. Players from each side following their lead into mutual antagonism. All contrasted with Matthew Renshaw, collecting runs and abuse at the top of the order with equal serenity, smiling sweetly from the milky face of a trainee priest.

Want examples of our universal timeline being full of bugs? Who would have believed, a short time ago, that Indian players could be castigating Australian usage of DRS? For so long India was the holdout refusing to use the review system. Now they are its most enthusiastic adopters. Over-enthusiastic, early from the holster every time, burning both challenges within a few overs of getting them. Then Smith, a canny review user in the field with plenty of experience, claiming to have forgotten how the system worked while batting. Looking to the dressing room for a forbidden signal on whether to challenge.

Or what about the management statements? First, James Sutherland: “I find the allegations questioning the integrity of Steve Smith, the Australian team and the dressing room, outrageous,” said the Cricket Australia boss of the suggestion that Smith had done exactly the thing that Smith had just admitted he shouldn’t have done. And if a player does something once, is it outrageous to suggest he might have done it other times? Especially with the opposing captain claiming to have been alert to the problem in the first place after witnessing two prior instances?

A week ago, the New Yorker posited that we are all living in a computer that has lost its mind. Simulation theory has had non-Wachowski currency for at least 15 years: basically that an infinite universe would contain life forms advanced enough to create simulated universes; and that the odds of being a living creature within a vast number of simulations are much higher than being one in the universe that seeded them.

The breakdown theory points to recent events in our existence that could be simulation glitches. A reality-TV bully is handed control of the world’s biggest arsenal; a shifting kaleidoscope of warring coalitions tears Syria apart; the wrong movie gets an Oscar while overseers freeze and watch the speeches; and two Australian spin bowlers take 27 of 30 Indian wickets on dry creekbeds while their batting team-mates find a way to prosper.

Of course, by the second half of the Bangalore Test, things had levelled out. In the cricket, any rate. The home side finally assembled a partnership, set enough of a lead, and brought fourth-innings bowling pressure to bear to eventually close out a classic. But still. This is not how things were supposed to be. There is a scoreline set at 1-1. There is interest and intrigue in every move. There is more anticipation for something in Ranchi than that city has ever known. A series supposed to have the spark and energy of a state funeral procession instead feels like that last pre-cascade moment at the bottom of a popcorn pan.

This Australian team, so recently rebuilt, was supposed be disassembled. Interest would vanish by the second bad day. Australian media would turn its March attention to the million pre-season games of the various football codes sponsored by indistinguishable acronyms at far-flung suburban grounds. Instead we have a series brought to life by lightning strike, one that can only be decided in the final game in Dharamsala. If India win the third Test, Australia can still retain the trophy. Australia win the third, India can deny them the series. Rain or a draw first up makes the final game a straight shootout for series and trophy both. Suddenly cricket is not fighting for space in the papers.

It’s that unexpected closeness – the heat and pressure of a big Indian loss first-up, then a brilliantly close-fought second contest – that has created fireworks on the field. The evaporation of calm and composure, the furious emotion. Two captains at each other all day, then carrying it on in their press conferences. Virat Kohli, all spiky angles in haircut and stubble and edge of tongue, abrasive and combative. Steve Smith’s sweat-soaked hair held back with a headband as he yanked his helmet off for the most guttural of his many century celebrations. Players from each side following their lead into mutual antagonism. All contrasted with Matthew Renshaw, collecting runs and abuse at the top of the order with equal serenity, smiling sweetly from the milky face of a trainee priest.

Want examples of our universal timeline being full of bugs? Who would have believed, a short time ago, that Indian players could be castigating Australian usage of DRS? For so long India was the holdout refusing to use the review system. Now they are its most enthusiastic adopters. Over-enthusiastic, early from the holster every time, burning both challenges within a few overs of getting them. Then Smith, a canny review user in the field with plenty of experience, claiming to have forgotten how the system worked while batting. Looking to the dressing room for a forbidden signal on whether to challenge.

Or what about the management statements? First, James Sutherland: “I find the allegations questioning the integrity of Steve Smith, the Australian team and the dressing room, outrageous,” said the Cricket Australia boss of the suggestion that Smith had done exactly the thing that Smith had just admitted he shouldn’t have done. And if a player does something once, is it outrageous to suggest he might have done it other times? Especially with the opposing captain claiming to have been alert to the problem in the first place after witnessing two prior instances?

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