The Test Web Series Review: Revving up a revival
That's what docuseries The Test: A New Era for Australia's Team has done through some masterly editing and projection of what exactly happens behind closed doors of dressing rooms.
Dir: Adrian Brown
On: Amazon Prime
WHICH country's cricket board would agree to a documentary on their team — no matter how much money is involved — featuring extensive dressing room footage right in between international matches? It's a no-brainer: Australia.
The Test: A New Era for Australia's Team, available on Amazon Prime, is unprecedented in many ways. Across eight episodes, a cricket lover metaphorically travels to dressing rooms of varying moods (depending on how Australia are doing), accompanies players on their way to Only For Players areas and 'sit' besides the best names in Australian cricket to 'share' their agony and ecstasy.
Throw in the tense team meetings, players throwing their bats, gloves and helmets in disgust after a dismissal and The Test doesn't fall short on drama.
The docuseries starts with the thrilling, victorious moment for Australia in the Manchester Test of the Ashes 2019 followed by a flashback to Justin Langer being appointed head coach in May 2018. Langer takes over from Darren Lehmann after skipper Steven Smith, his deputy David Warner and Cameron Bancroft are deemed cheats in the ball tampering controversy.
Watch the trailer of The Test: The New Era for Australia's Team here:
Langer could be viewed as the protagonist in many ways with new captain Tim Paine not far behind as the man constantly under the spotlight. The Western Australian advocates a winning method in which there is aggression without disrespect towards opponents, banter without abuse, but no limits when it comes to passion. He starts his coaching stint with a 0-5 shellacking in an ODI series in the English summer of 2018. But in their next international engagement less than four months later, Australia manage to draw a Test which, for the outside world, seemed lost.
In Dubai against Pakistan, the Paine-led Australians were set a 462-run target. A loss was imminent with the Australian scorecard reading 136-3 at the end of the fourth day. But opener Usman Khawaja was 50 not out and went on to save Australia with an unbelievable 141. Sridharan Sriram, the former India player, now Australia's spin coach, delivers a riveting pep talk after Day Four, emphasising that the Australians had nothing to lose.
Prior to this game, Khawaja and Langer clash over the coach wanting batsmen to shift to another net if they get dismissed. Khawaja speaks out when Langer asks for some "honest feedback" on that 45-minute net session. The Queenslander feels the batsmen were worried about getting out instead of focusing on execution. Langer isn't impressed. After the draw, the Aussies lose in Abu Dhabi.
Next up, India in Australia. Paine's team are reminded that India have never won a Test series Down Under. But Australia's batting is fragile without Smith and Warner and India win their first Test series in Australia. The accolades from the defeated camp are forthcoming. Chief spinner Nathan Lyon says he hasn't seen an Indian team fight the way Kohli & Co did. The Indian captain succeeded in occupying their mind space. The hosts don't enjoy it but they have no answer to Kohli's drive and determination. The drive Langer points to is of another kind — the on-drive for four which helps Kohli get his first runs in his Perth Test century.
The 2019 Ashes beckon after the Border-Gavaskar Trophy surrender. The opening Test is won to keep England winless against the old enemy to seven Tests, but England storm back with a thrilling one-wicket win in the third Test at Leeds. Manchester witnesses a win for Australia and the Ashes are retained. It's strange that Australia consider this as a major achievement when they've prided themselves on winning. England's victory in the final Test at The Oval makes it 2-2. The Australians have the urn but not the series. Maybe next time reckons Langer. "But what I am most proud about is that Australians are proud of us again." Extensive footage of Langer gives one the impression that the head coach has too much of a say in a sport where the captain ideally must be the ultimate boss.
But for the places this docuseries takes cricket fans to and playing a good vehicle to understand how brutal sport can be through some masterly editing, it must be said that the first season of The Test is a winner.
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