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Babysitter Jibe, Kohli Supporting Smith – Things ‘The Test’ Missed

A look at some of the incidents left out of ‘The Test’, Amazon’s new web series on the Australia Cricket Team.

Updated
Cricket
7 min read
A look at some of the incidents left out of ‘The Test’, Amazon’s new web series on the Australia Cricket Team.
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The changing landscape of Australian cricket – from their lows after the ball tampering saga to their Ashes series highs – is covered in unprecedented fashion by 'The Test', a documentary on Amazon Prime, where viewers get to see the human side of cricketers and a peek into their dressing room.

While it remains a one-of-a-kind documentary from the cricketing realm, 'The Test' misses out on covering a few extraordinary events over the course of the last two Australian summers. Here we list down some of them.

The de Kock – Warner Tiff Before Ball Tampering Episode

The whole theme of the documentary is how Australia go from being a team of rogues to respected blokes, and a key figure in the whole plot is the alleged mastermind behind the whole ball tampering saga in Cape Town-David Warner. The first episode of the documentary rushes through the ball tampering incident, the news paper headlines and Steven Smith's press conference. There's very little focus on Warner, who allegedly brought shame upon the Aussies.

What's evidently missing is the build-up to the ball tampering incident that would have portrayed what kind of a personality Warner was, before it all unfolded in the way it did. Ideally, the documentary should have covered – at least with clippings from the incident – the tiff between Quinton de Kock and David Warner in the first Test of the 2018 series at Durban.

In an ugly staircase altercation, Warner is seen losing his cool at the Proteas keeper who threw a jibe at him after coping sledges whole day. The incident cost Warner $13,500 and three demerit points and would have been the ideal prelude to establish the kind of person Warner was at the start of 2018.

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The 5-0 ODI Series Win in UAE

'The Test' starts with Justin Langer taking a young Aussie ODI team to England under the leadership of Tim Paine. The new team is struggling to cope with the absence of stalwarts Steven Smith and David Warner, but the message from Justin Langer is clear - "cut the white noise" and concentrate on building a team. The bottom-line he tried to establish is that process matters, results don't. Yet, even the new head coach isn't ready for the drubbing that Australia face in that series.

When they concede 381 at Trent Bridge, the Aussies are deflated and the series inevitably meanders to a 0-5 loss.

The episode concludes with Langer reminding them that it's "not okay" to lose 0-5 to England. The subsequent episode goes on to show Australia's Test side back in action in the UAE and some absorbing Test match action. However, that episode is followed by the Indian series Down Under and completely skips through a 5-0 thrashing of Pakistan in the ODIs which let to the selection of Aaron Finch as captain.

Having lost 0-5 to the Poms in the ODIs, the 5-0 series win in UAE under Finch was a massive boost for the Australian side. The documentary skips this entire series and does not even show why Paine - who earned special praise from Langer in England for sticking up even after copping a blow to his lips - was dropped from the ODI side or what led to the appointment of Finch as skipper.

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Paine’s Babysitting Sledge

A highlight of India's tour of Australia in 2018 was the subtle, yet hilarious banter from the Aussie skipper, Tim Paine. A constant chatterbox behind the stumps, Paine was a hit on social media for some of his jibes. While the documentary shows Paine riling up Murali Vijay and later Virat Kohli himself, it misses the best taunt of the series - the one directed at Rishabh Pant.

Paine goes on to unleash a tirade of words at Pant as he comes in to bat, all keeping in sync with Langer's advise that "there's no room for abuse, but there can be banter".

"Tell you what big MS [Dhoni] is back in the one day squad. Should get this bloke down to Hurricanes.. They need a batter. Fancy that extend you Aussie holiday, beautiful town Hobart too... get him a water front-apartment....Have him over for dinner. Do you babysit? I can take my wife to the movies while you watch the kids," Paine says to Pant in a banter that went viral on social media. All of which is not shown in the series.

Pant didn't back down either when his time came, commenting on Paine being "temporary captain" in the absence of Steven Smith.

We are made to believe right through the early episodes that Langer does not want Australia losing their ‘Australian way’ of playing. He keeps stressing on making the atmosphere hostile for batsmen with banter and this exchange between the keepers was one of the highlights of the series. Unfortunately, the producers decided to omit this rather interesting duel from the documentary.

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Mayank Agarwal Taking on Nathan Lyon

A vital cog in Australia's Test side is Nathan Lyon. 'The Test' portrays him as an emotional player who is often overwhelmed by situations but puts on a brave face. In India's tour of Australia in late 2018, Lyon was a game-changer in the win at Perth in the second Test. The documentary highlights Lyon having a brilliant Test match on a drop-in wicket. The off-spinner wins the Man of the Match award in the Test and before the Boxing Day game at Melbourne, the 'GOAT', as they call him, is the highest wicket-taker in the series.

The narrative changes drastically at Melbourne. Lyon had sixteen wickets in the first two Tests of the series and the Aussies recognise his contribution. The fourth episode starts with the Aussie players shown a cartoon of Paine and Lyon silencing Virat Kohli at Perth.

Mayank Agarwal made his India debut in the India tour of Australia in 2018-19.
Mayank Agarwal made his India debut in the India tour of Australia in 2018-19.
(Photo: AP)

At MCG, debutant Mayank Agarwal is on the attack against the off-spinner from the word go – something the Indians hadn't done against Lyon – and the senior spinner switches to a more defensive line from around the wicket.

Lyon bowled 61 overs in the Test and returned with just one wicket. He never appeared the same bowler since that duel in the series.

This key battle that defined the series of sorts – considering Lyon's massive impact in the first two Tests after which the series was level – is missing in the documentary. It would have been interesting to see how Langer and the bowling coach reacted to Lyon's dwindling performance in the series since then.

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Kohli Prompting the Crowd to Cheer for Smith

Australia's World Cup campaign, the time when David Warner and Steven Smith return to the national setup is shown in detail. It focuses on the two big individuals in the dressing room and the kind of abuse they take from the England crowd and the Barmy Army. The documentary shows how Warner, Smith and essentially the whole dressing room take to the sledges thrown at them from the stands. It also shows how they eventually cope with it and see a funny side to it.

However, an important piece in the jigsaw was a simple, yet exceptional gesture from India’s skipper, Virat Kohli, in the group match between India and Australia at The Oval.

During India's batting innings, Smith was stationed at third man where a section of the Indian crowd chanted "cheater..cheater". Virat Kohli, who was at the crease during the incident, intervenes and asks the crowd to cheer for Smith instead of booing him.

A gesture that won Kohli the Spirit of Cricket award at the ICC awards in 2019 has no place in the documentary despite an elaborated dig into how the crowd was hostile to Smith and Warner during the World Cup.

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Cameron Bancroft's Return

The first episode where the ball tampering saga is highlighted covers Cameron Bancroft shoving the sandpaper inside his trousers. The youngster is given quite a few frames in the episode and although the action shifts to Warner and Smith, Bancroft is seen as a scapegoat in the incident. 'The Test' covers the return of Smith and Warner to the national setup in great detail and rightly so.

However, Bancroft made an equally fabled return to the Test side for the Ashes tour that followed the World Cup.

The only frame the opener manages to catch then is one where he is dismissed with the background talk not even revolving around him. Although the ball tampering episode panned out the way it did, Bancroft was seen as an innocent who wanted to appease his seniors. His return to the side was perhaps more emotional and less expected - considering that he wasn't an established player - than the other two but the documentary skips through this entire story.

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Stuart Broad Working Over Warner in the Ashes

While Australia bringing the Ashes back home is covered across two episodes in 'The Test', the major headline right through the series was on David Warner's wretched patch of form and his nemesis in Stuart Broad. The England pacer dismissed Warner seven times in 10 innings on the tour, specifically by coming around the wicket to tackle the left-hander.

The onus on the documentary, however, remains firmly around Smith and his battle with Jofra Archer with Marnus Labuschagne's rise and Ben Stokes' Headingley heroics also given a fair share of the limelight. While the Aussies retained the urn, they did not win the series and the lack of runs from Warner was a major sub-plot in the heated series.

That Broad had the wood over Warner was pretty evident and it made huge ripples on the media then. However, 'The Test' does not cover this at all with Broad dismissing Warner once being the only clipping shown from the battle. A deeper dig into Warner's mindset or the coaching staff's insights could have added an interesting angle to the final two episodes that are slightly drab despite the engrossing Smith-Archer battle.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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