Cape Town 2018, the series was on the line. The partnership between the Proteas batsmen was building, and there was utter frustration in the Australian camp. To their displeasure, the ball was not doing anything, and there was assistance from the pitch. In such a scenario, Cameroon Bancroft used yellow sandpaper, while pretending to shine, to tamper the shape of the ball to get some reverse swing for his pacers.
What followed was a massacre. A series of teary press conferences and resignation. After all, the image of the hardcore Australian team was shattered! The trident of Steve Smith, Cameroon Bancroft, and David Warner was held guilty and banned by Cricket Australia.
Suddenly, there were noises all around. The team which usually lit the stadium on fire was under fire! Suddenly the tough Australians were termed as the “Misfits” and the “Bad Boys” of the game. There was no one by their side. But one man stood, he took the challenge upon himself to bring this team to where it belonged. And that man was none other than Justin Langer, thus with him began the journey of The Test: A new era of Australian Cricket.
The Test: A new era of Australian Cricket is nothing short of a jackpot for a cricket fanatic. Though the 8 episode documented series is a wonderful insight into what goes into a player’s mind and the team’s thinking tank, especially when things are going south.
The docu-series is a journey of a team from “I to We.” It tickles your emotions with the scenes where Nathon Lyon breaks down in tears while handing the Baggy Green to Travis Head. You can feel that emotion. The happiness of earning that Baggy Green! Then there is Justin Langer, who keeps the Aussies’ spirits up and performs team bonding sessions in the form of visiting the war graves of their countrymen in Gallipoli or on the Western Front. Then there is a scene where he stresses about the fine line between banter and abuse. He stresses the fact that he wants his men to be good Australians and always remember who they are playing and representing on the field.
In captain Tim Paine, he finds a level-headed ally who is there to fight for his blokes. He devises a plan of not involving in banter with Virat Kohli but stands up for his team when he sees that the Indian test captain was getting under their skin.
Then this is followed by Aron Finch’s poor form. The constant discussion of sacking him the Australian way. However, here, Justin Langer owns his responsibility and brings his captain’s form to life, which also results in Australia defeating India in the ODI series in India with a margin of 3-2. During the series, the camaraderie can be felt, which is also vividly made in scenes between Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis, with the latter making his own “Love Cafe.” The two tourmates are very close, though it may come to a point where you might think that this is an elaborate practical joke.
The reintegration of Steve Smith and David Warner in the team for the World Cup. You can feel the coming back of these players along with the impeccable form this team had during the group stages of the game. The planning and the fear of not giving the new ball instead of Pat Cummins against England for Jason Behrendorff, who turned out to be a match-winner.
At no point you will feel that you are not connected to this wonderful enigma of Australian Cricket. You can feel the pain when Shaun Marsh cries when he felt that he lost his chance to play in what it could be his last world cup, after breaking his arm by a Pat Cummins bouncer during the practice. Then there was a hamstring injury to Usman Khwaja during the match, and you know that Australia is not going forward in the tournament.
The final two episodes center around Australia’s fight to win the Ashes in England. For those who remember, The Ashes was itself a blockbuster thriller that produced storylines and scenes that nicely features in the series. You can feel the intense rivalry between Steve Smith and Jofra Archer. Live with Marnus Labuschagne to see him rise through the ranks. Then there was once in a lifetime innings of Sir Ben Stokes, which somehow defined this Ashes. The boos and abuse from the rowdy English crowd, which was captured quite intimately, could be good enough to rattle your heart and soul. Then there was despair and ecstasy of drawing the Ashes yet retaining it.
All said and done, this is a treat for a cricket fan. Many, like me, who have associated themselves with this team will feel that they are breathing each and every moment of this journey. Having said that, this series is worth binge-watching.