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    "Never aware of the camera": Raw response to Ashes drama revealed in a cricket documentary
"Never aware of the camera": Raw response to Ashes drama revealed in a cricket documentary
A new season of the Prime Video documentary. Source: theguardian.com

"Never aware of the camera": Raw response to Ashes drama revealed in a cricket documentary

The Test's third season pulls back the curtain on Australia's tour of England in 2023 and aims to wrap up the team's rebuild.

A delicate balance is necessary for the art of immersion. It meant being unseen and at the same time being everywhere that a significant moment was breaking for the documentary team behind the third season of The Test, which followed Australia's cricket players on their 2023 tour of England. Take in the moment as Nathan Lyon sobs into his towel, pausing silently as captain Pat Cummins withstands a heckling mob that calls him a liar, and standing your ground when David Warner begins tossing bats and bottles.

“Really, it’s one guy in a corner who has hidden microphones around,” stated Cummins. “On screen, it feels bigger than in the moment, but it’s fly-on-the-wall – we’re never aware of the camera.”

Lone cameraman Clancy Sinnamon is in the dressing room when Alex Carey unleashes hell by throwing down Jonny Bairstow's stumps on the fifth day of the Lord's Test. The Australians have just returned from being abused by MCC members in the once-austere Long Room and are experiencing the emotional storm of their actions.

“It’s an incredible moment,” noted co-director Sheldon Wynne, “and part of me wanted seven cameras in that situation. But the beauty and intimacy of The Test is based on us being a low-fi operation and we never want to lose the team’s trust. So instead of trying to be everywhere at once, we stay in that tiny room to see the players joking, processing it. We see Pat’s calm captaincy and the cohesion of this team in showing instant solidarity on the strategy. But viewers will know this is much bigger than the team realises.”

The Test shows how much of a toll the Lord's stumping had on Carey and that Cummins was the one who gave the order. Does he regret not taking charge sooner? “The funny thing is, I thought I did,” the captain says. “Seeing that said now has caught me off guard. Yeah, maybe I would’ve taken some more of the heat. But we were pretty clear from the outset that a few of us had seen something. Yes, it was Alex who threw the ball but that was a team wicket.”

The Test was a major component of Cricket Australia's public image makeover when series one began airing in 2020, following the team's disastrous reputation due to the sandpaper scandal. More controversy arose in Series Two, with Justin Langer, the head coach of The Test, resigning and Tim Paine losing his captaincy due to sexting allegations. Cummins emerged as a new hero—a captain with morality who is committed to regaining people's trust.

“That cataclysmic moment [in South Africa] reshaped the way these players saw their role within Australian cricket,” stated co-director Adrian Brown. “Series three closes the loop on that rebuilding process and follows the quest to win the Ashes outright. That’s the unfinished business for this team.” The Test presents the World Test Championship matchup between India and us before they get started. After his mother passed away, Cummins rejoined the team, and Travis Head, who had just been married, picked up his first bat in two months.

This is the real power of The Test. Honest discussions regarding these personal journeys enhance the magnificent performances that ensue. The series contains several heart-wrenching moments, such as when Mitch Marsh is called up to the team at Headingley after four years away from the field, or when Cummins embraces his father following his first Test victory. Nathan Lyon also limps out to bat with a ruptured calf as a final act of defiance to the old adversary.

“It was emotional to relive,” noted Cummins. “The first Test of an Ashes is so big as it is, but to have Dad thereafter the Lord’s win after what we’d been through in the lead-up, felt like the climax of so many things coming together. It’s special to have it on film.” Tougher for Cummins was re-living Australia’s unravelling in the final Test on the verge of a 3-1 victory. “That was the hardest to watch. We’re so close but it slips by. To see us not at our best is tough.”

However, the most endearing things are human frailties, hardships, and failures. The saga of Marsh, an extraordinary talent ridiculed by supporters and the press, is the most captivating. In the third Test, he emerges victorious 85-4 and smashes a 102-ball century, the fastest by an Australian in England since Victor Trumper's 95-ball century in 1902. Given father Geoff and brother Shaun were Test players, Marsh grew up in the sanctity of the private places The Test takes us.

“But there’s no way you’d have been able to film this in Dad’s day with all the beer and cigarette sponsorship,” Marsh laughs. “Now it’s our responsibility to give back to the game. The Test helps us do it. Australia’s cricket team has always been a closely guarded secret known only to the baggy green fraternity. For people to see how heavy Lords was, understand what we went through – it’s special.”

Cummins agrees. “The reason we’re doing this is the fans. We were kids once looking up to the Aussie team, wishing we could see behind the curtain. Letting them in feels like the right thing to do.”

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