Cricket’s road to redemption

By Michael Roberts | posted on April 17, 2020

DOCU-SERIES REVIEW

The Test – Amazon Prime Video

4 / 5 stars

IF AMAZON’S behind-the-scenes docu-series on the Australian cricket team doesn’t go some way to winning back some of your affection for the national side, there’s no doubt it will earn back a bit of your respect.

If, like me, you had fallen out of love with Australian cricket after ‘Sandpaper Gate’, The Test acts somewhat as a therapy session to repairing that relationship.

Growing up watching the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Ricky Pointing – Australia’s next batch of stars always had an incredibly hard act to follow.

It wasn’t just their heroics on the field that this generation never seemed to match.

Whether media training or micro-managing coaches had stifled the personalities out of the players, it seemed this batch of cricketers were a bit lifeless.

Remember when Glenn McGrath used to tell the media the Aussies would win every Ashes series 5-0? Or Warney would joke about celebrating a big win with a beer and a ciggie?

It seemed all the characters of Australian cricket had been lost to the commentary box.

And then Cameron Bancroft, on the direction of David Warner and under the supervision of Steve Smith, decided it was a great idea to scuff one side of the ball with sandpaper during a March 2018 test match against South Africa in Cape Town.

For a country that prides itself on ‘a fair go’, the ball-tampering saga was a step too far.

The fallout was spectacular.

The Australian side lost its captain and vice-captain to 12-month bans, while coach Darren Lehman resigned.

Australia’s culture and ethics were rightly questioned.

Where did it all go wrong since that golden era?

And so, in steps Justin Langer, who is charged with the insurmountable task of coaching the national team through one of its darkest periods.

This is where The Test docu-series begins.

At his first press conference as Australian coach Langer says it’s all about earning back respect and making Australians proud of their cricket team once again.

Over the next 16-months, filmmakers follow the Aussie team on their long road back to redemption, intimately capturing behind the scenes footage of the highs and lows of international cricket.

This is the first time we’ve ever really been allowed to see what goes on behind the closely guarded curtain of the Australian dressing room, and it’s compelling viewing.

The producers couldn’t have asked for a better year of cricket either, with an Indian home summer, World Cup and Ashes series all producing some outstanding moments.

Test cricket – at its best – is a rollercoaster of emotions, and The Test doesn’t disappoint on that front.

Reliving the final overs of the Headingly test where Ben Stokes drags England home to an unlikely one-wicket victory is the kind of drama you can’t script.

Watching it from Langer’s perspective proves even more compelling viewing.

The Australian coach kicks a rubbish bin over in frustration after Nathan Lyon misses a simple run-out chance in the dying moments, but then proceeds to pick up every piece of trash off the ground while the drama on the field is unfolding.

It’s a simple act but shows the character of a man trying to teach his side the same level of humility.

This docu-series is all about Australia’s story arc from Cape Town cheaters to Ashes heroes, but there are plenty of heartwarming side stories away from the action too.

Tim Paine’s leadership skills off the field grow exponentially over the 16-months. Aaron Finch fights personal demons to come out the other side a better player.

While Marcus Stoinis and Adam Zampa show us the team isn’t all made up of macho characters.

Yes, there’s quite a bit of swearing, and you might think players are being a bit over the top when they throw their gear around in anger, but that shouldn’t really be the focus here.

We get to know what these cricketers are actually like as people and the Australian public is all the better for it.

The docu-series is essential viewing for any self-confessed cricket tragic.