The Test: A New Era (Amazon Prime Video)
"How 'bout this for an idea?" Australian men's cricket coach Justin Langer suggests to a hotel conference room full of bored-looking men in tracksuits. "From this day forward, no more abuse. That'd be a fair team standard for us, whaddya reckon, Finchy?"
Aaron "Finchy" Finch nods. "Yup."
"But I tell ya what I do want to see," Langer continues, "I want to see plenty of banter!" The whole room is silent. "Yeah?" he nods to his impassive audience in a manner painfully reminiscent of David Brent in The Office.
In the absence of any actual transtasman sporting fixtures during the coming weeks and months, Amazon Prime Video's new cricket documentary series, The Test, may be one of the only sources of sporting schadenfreude we have left.
The series follows the Baggy Greens during an 18-month period, starting with Langer's appointment as coach in the wake of the infamous Sandpaper Scandal – "the worst cricket crisis in Australia's history." He sees it as a project ("life's about projects") to restore the public's pride in their beloved cricket team.
"We're Australian cricketers," he tells the squad gathered in the hotel conference room before their One Day International series against England. "We're fierce ... but we can still be good blokes."
This is one of the dangers of these behind-the-scenes sports documentaries – that they'll make you realise a team you always hated are actually good blokes.
Langer appoints the baby-faced wicketkeeper Tim Paine to replace the disgraced Steve Smith as his new captain. Painey almost misses the flight to England after showing up at the airport with his baby daughter's passport. You hate to admit it but he seems like a pretty good bloke.
When the team arrives in England, they get straight on a bus to France. A man from the Australian Defence Force gives the team a tour of the Western Front to teach them about sacrifice and humility. On the bus back through the chunnel, the team manager gives every player an envelope – it's a letter from their parents saying how proud they are of their sons.
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"You've got grown men crying their eyes out, mate," recalls Langer. If any one moment was guaranteed to endear the Australian men's cricket team to us, this would have been it – but they didn't film it, or if they did, they chose not to show it.
On the pitch, the tour is a complete disaster. England destroys them in every game. For any New Zealand cricket fan who has lived through the dark epoch of Warne, McGrath, Ponting et al, it is incredibly satisfying to watch an Australian cricket team's morale hit rock-bottom and Langer's team talks become increasingly sweary and unhinged.
We know all too well that they get good again. And the remaining seven episodes may yet convince us they are good blokes, too. We need to make the most of this schadenfreude while it lasts. May it sustain us through the empty sporting calendar ahead.