These are just some of the behind the scenes moments from Cricket Australia’s eight-part documentary – The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team – to be released on streaming service Amazon Prime in March.
The project, which charts the Australian side’s recovery under Langer after the sandpaper scandal to their successful defence of the Ashes in England, was the brainchild of CA’s head of broadcast and production Richard Ostroff.
As director Adrian Brown tells it, Ostroff was keen to do something CA had never tried before: take viewers inside the Australian team.
Brown had experience in the genre having put together Outsiders, which told the story of the Western Bulldogs’ fairytale AFL premiership in 2016. Ostroff wanted to know what Brown had done with the Bulldogs and if it could be applied to cricket.
“If this was to happen, it has to be all about trust,” Brown says. “No camera has ever been let in behind the scenes of the team. Let’s go speak to them and be upfront and honest. Would you entertain having cameras travel with you? How do we go about this?”
Players learned of the idea at a team camp in Brisbane weeks after Langer’s appointment in May 2018, and were open to it. They were reassured by Brown it would not get in their way. In time they may even become so comfortable they do not notice the camera is there.
“If you’re not comfortable let us know because we want to work with you,” Brown recalls of the conversation. “We don’t want you to look at us like “where is this going?” We want to build trust so you can share more intimate moments with us.”
Keeping the crew small, says Brown, was the key. In fact, for almost the entire filming process cameraman Andre Mauger – or “Doc” as he is affectionately known by the team – rode solo.
The ODI tour of England, Langer’s first as full-time coach, was to be somewhat of a trial run. It speaks volumes to how well Mauger was received by players that the project lived on after Australia were crushed 5-0.
“He was so critical to the process,” Brown says. “He was a one-man band and let everyone be cricketers.”
While there were no limits placed on Mauger, he knew when he needed to shoot from close range, from a distance or not at all.
Viewers are taken behind closed doors to the moment Finch returns to the dressing room after his dismissal in last season’s Adelaide Test to learn from teammates he would still be out in the middle if he had reviewed. Khawaja’s heartbreak at a hamstring injury which ends his World Cup also features, so too the drama in the coaches’ box at Headingley.
The disagreement between Langer and Khawaja, before the first Test against Pakistan in the UAE, over their philosophies to training was a key moment for the director. It showed him how deep they could probe.
“Pretty heated discussion and Doc’s right there capturing it,” Brown recalls. “I thought that’s pretty raw for any sort of player-coach discussion. The passion was right there.
“To have that filmed and see both sides of it is fascinating. It’s right there and is fantastic to watch.
“I thought if they’re going to let us film to that level then we’ll have something. It was just unfiltered. That was a turning point in access to go ‘we really can be there and not get shut down’.”
By the Ashes, Brown says, viewers can detect just how strong the trust is between the players and Mauger. The public were given an insight to this in the snippet released last week detailing the distressing aftermath to Steve Smith being hit on the neck by a frightful Joffra Archer bouncer at Lord’s.
“You feel like you’re sitting next to the players in the dressing room,” Brown says. “Whereas maybe earlier on there was a bit of a distance, by the end Doc’s so welcomed in the group you’re right there in the rooms at Headingley.”
How Australia responded to the heartbreaking third Test defeat will be one of the most keenly anticipated scenes in the documentary. The gist of Paine’s message has already been documented but it’s another thing to witness how it was delivered.
“They’re some of the more amazing scenes from the series – you can hear the rumbling from Headingley and inside the room not much is said until Tim Paine stands up,” Browns says.
“They’re about to come into the dressing room. Some are not that big. Where are you going to stand, who’s going to talk and can you get a shot of it?
“We didn’t have audio operators with booms to put mikes on people because that would completely break the moment. It was captured as it is. There’s a beauty within that. If we missed it, it’s just missed, it doesn’t exist. We can only tell the story we manage to capture.
“The beauty of Doc was he managed to capture so much.”
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald