'The Test: A New Era for Australia's Team': Justin Langer used process and patience to build a solid team
Spoiler alert for 'The Test: A New Era for Australia's Team' Episode 1
'The Test' opens with a raucous crowd at the Old Trafford in 2019. Ian Botham's voiceover stresses how important the Ashes is to Australia. This is a litmus test. And the scene shifts to Aussie cricketer Josh Hazlewood as he walks towards his run-up. The atmosphere in the dressing room is tense and coach, Justin Langer is a bundle of nerves, while the Barmy Army is out there chanting and fervently hoping the weather gods would show some mercy so that England could walk away with a draw.
Not for Australia. This win means they retain the Ashes. The focus is back on Hazlewood as he loads up against a defiant Craig Overton who's blunted his way to a patient and painful 21 of 104 deliveries. What follows is a length ball, nipping back in and hitting Overton's pads. The appeals are strong, and umpire Kumar Dharmasena raises the finger. There's a celebration in the Aussie camp, however, Overton goes for a review.
And it's a painful wait. The Australian players get into their huddle, anxiously looking at the scoreboard waiting for the third umpire, Ruchira Palliyaguruge, to make his decision. Langer and co are equally impatient. Hazlewood is on his haunches. The sky is getting darker by the minute and Palliyaguruge finally makes his decision and the red light flashes on the big screen. Overton is done with his 105-ball innings.
Australia has won and at that moment, one can only look back at the arduous and the tumultuous journey the team has had. It would be a cliche to say this team was like the phoenix rising from the ashes, but that was the aptest description at that point.
Episode 1: A New Beginning rewinds the clock back to coach Langer's first day. Just before the team was fractured and left in splinters. "The Australian Cricket Team cheated" was the phrase when the ball-tampering scandal rocked the nation and the cricketing fraternity across the world. Australia felt a national sense of betrayal.
The Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was shocked, "It beggars belief," he said. Steven Smith, the captain, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were immediately withdrawn from the South African tour. Following the incident, coach Darren Lehmann called time on his coaching career.
Langer, on-camera, recounts the way Smith was "frogmarched" and says the sight nearly "killed him." The season opener delves into Langer's thoughts as he takes guard again— This time as the coach. His mission was simple: To bring back the lost glory of Australia. He relives the moments he was appointed the coach. Also sharing enough screen space is newly-appointed Test Captain, Tim Paine who talks about how his career went from being a wicket-keeper to team skipper.
It also looks at the synergy the captain and the coach shared. Something that was instrumental in conjuring up their winning formula. Langer also outlines his role in the team. There's a hilarious incident Paine recalls when his 12-year-old daughter got her passport and he did not and he had to be flying out to England for an ODI series.
"It's just not about being great cricketers, It's about being a great person" is the message Langer has to share. Langer's making-runs-for-fun-type Tests career gets a breezy look at and so does his psyche. This was a man who was used to winning and he intended to shape the present team the same way.
That the Australians are known to be the banter boys isn't a secret. But Langer wants to bring in a change. He's okay with banter, but he's not okay with abuse. He speaks about taking the challenge by its collar, but not be d***s about it. Process and patience are the platforms on which he intends to build a solid team. 'A New Beginning' may be the start of new things for Langer, but the tour of England was an eye-opener with the team getting smacked.
'The Test: A New Era for Australia's Team' is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.