The greatest thing about sports or for that matter, any competitive game is that it brings out the real characteristics of the people involved in it. Whereas individual game or sports is about that individual’s accomplishment, perseverance, tireless effort and dedication towards the achievement, its the team game that is the true test of character. It’s the team game that shows us what a group of men or women are capable of doing, their extent of achieving the impossible. On the other hand, because the sportsmen or sportswomen are so highly lauded for their achievements, their fall from grace is also swift. Whenever there has been an incident of corruption in sports, drug test failure or any kind of misconduct outside the field or arena for that matter, the public reaction has often been cruel, especially after learning about the fallacies of their demigods.
Being an avid watcher of this game for years, I’ve had my fair share of childhood memories that had cricket in it. We were cricket crazy, it was as simple as that. When I was growing up, Australia was the team to beat. A team that prided on its ability to fight back from any position, it was a team of superhumans. It was said that the bench strength of the then Australian team could’ve given a run for money to any of the players, but the team was so good, that the bench hardly got a chance to prove their mettle. A team that was ‘the’ benchmark of all teams, who aspired to become the greatest, Australia was invincible. So when a team of such magnificent and glorious history gets involved in an incident that brings disrepute to the game, it was quite the news.
To be honest, ball-tampering is something that probably happens so much in the modern game of cricket that in the near future, it may also become officially legal. The Australian crowd wasn’t bothered about the allegation as much as they were heartbroken about the fact that the alleged cheating was committed, in agreement with the core leadership team. A nation that prides on its ability to fight hard and fight fair, they were gobsmacked at the allegation. Thus naturally, a call for heads was on the cards. The captain and the vice-captain were sacked and banned for 12 months. The coach Darren Lehmann stepped down from his position. Tim Paine, an unheard name until then was named the captain along with Justin Langer, an ex-cricketer turned coach as the coach. Between March 2018 to September, the Australian Cricket Team saw a series of ups and downs, in which they hit the rock bottom and then eventually, they went on to win back the respect of the Australian public, the crowd and the connoisseurs of the game. ‘The Test’, an Amazon Prime original, shows us an in-depth view of what happened in these 18 months and how did the Australian team got back its mojo, especially in their coach Justin Langer’s own words – This sums up the Australian Cricket to me – Where we’ve been, where we’re going!
Spread across eight episodes, it is a riveting tale of courage, grit and passion of a bunch of players and their coach. We see the coach, the captain and various players open their heart out on the events that forced them to get relegated to a below-average team. As the episodes progress, the tryst to become a better team unfurls on screen. From a new captain trying to get the players to trust him, a batsman who fights with the coach to become better on the field, the rivalry with team India and the famous Kohli-Paine banter, the ODI team’s resurgence under a new captain and eventually their progress up to the semi-finals of the World Cup to the mother of all – retaining of The Ashes; ‘The Test’ is a show that keeps you engrossed.
The best part about this program is its intent to bring out the vulnerability of the players and their determination to overcome the burden of the past and set on the journey to becoming the greatest. We see a captain’s determination to stand for his team, when he takes on Virat Kohli on the field, thus earning the respect from his team members and his fellow countrymen. We again see the same captain making professional harakiri on the field, when during a critical moment in Ashes Test series, he misuses a DRS decision, only to see it coming back to bite him in the next over and eventually losing the game. Justin Langer, an accomplished player himself, getting frustrated with his team’s incompetence, but ultimately getting his team across the line, with sheer grit and finally, the redemption of Steve Smith – A man hated, booed on his return to the game after 12 months ban, goes to score three centuries in five games and win plaudits and respect from greatest of his detractors – ‘The Test’ is full of such inspiring stories.
If you love the game, the way I do, ‘The Test’ is for you. The story about a team hitting the nadir, the lowest of lows of their cricketing history and then rising from it, just like the phoenix from the ashes, how can you not be romantic about this game!
‘The Test’ now streaming worldwide on Amazon Prime.
The Cinemawala Rating: 4/5