Not a review: The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team

Think of a mistake you made in your life – you know the big one. You have already paid the price of your mistake and moved on. Now imagine wherever you go, plaque cards and people are heckling your mistakes loudly – Your past just does not leave you wherever you go…. How would you go about your daily duties? How would you perform on the world stage where people are only reminding you of what wrong you did? Not a great situation to be in right? You would require nerves of steel to perform under this sort of pressure. You would require a tremendous mindset to focus on the present while the world reminds you of the horrors of your past. Steve Smith – take a bow!

The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team to me is more than about rebuilding one of the greatest teams of world cricket.

In many ways, this series throws light on the laws of karma and forgiveness. Yes, your past will haunt you and yes, you have complete freedom to choose your next best action. You can choose to be affected with what others are saying and regretting your past actions (there is no denying it’s your karma) or you can choose to fulfill your duty by forgiving yourself and choosing to face the consequences with courage.

To err is human and to forgive is divine – One key element for a peaceful life is to forgive yourself. Accept that you too are just a human and are susceptible to temptations and mistakes. When you truly seek forgiveness and forgive everyone around you including yourself, you set yourself up to experience divinity.

Coming back to the series, the central character more or less is Justin Langer (the coach of the Australian cricket team) and we see the progress of Australian cricket team through his eyes. All the team members share their experiences of different test series, the world cup and the Ashes. We get to see what happens in team meetings, what happens before and after wins & losses.

Here are a few things that stood out for me:

1. The India vs. Australia series of 2016-17: I have watched this series from India’s angle and it’s intriguing to see the other team’s point of view. It was very interesting to hear about what the Australian team members were going through during those times. Individuals were feeling vulnerable about their selection, how one player can get to 11 others, how one goes about supporting each other in difficult times. How the coach must understand what works for every player.

2. We before Me: After the defeat against India, Justin Langer brings in the concept of we before me. The whole team was asked to travel together, eat together and just be together as a team. In a team sport, it’s very important to gel as a team. You may not be heart to heart pals but you are on the same team. To function as a team, you need to feel like a part of the team. To feel like a part of the team, you need to spend more time with the team to get to know each other. It reminded me of Indian huddle of 2003 (After the shameful defeat against Australia, the Indian team was getting into a huddle for they had only each other to make a difference!). When you start feeling like part of a team, you start performing as a team.

In the corporate world, people are quick to form teams for a project. To perform as a team, you need to feel that all the individuals are in it together having a common goal, only then a team can perform optimally. This concept seems to be lost on many. Team bonding is at times underrated but it does wonders!

3. Mindset: When you are not performing as per your expectations, your mindset is affected the most. This team did not forget playing cricket but they had forgotten what it feels like to be a champion, what it feels like to win. Having a healthy head space is crucial for performance. There is a beautiful moment of vulnerability in one of the episodes where Justin Langer doubts and thinks “What if we lose against Sri Lanka”. This vulnerability of self-doubt and lack of self-confidence is experienced by so many of us regularly. What ultimately pays off is sticking to a process. Following a process/ritual/routine helps you develop your confidence. Even the best in the world feel shaken but the best in the world don’t dwell on it for too long. They step up and follow their process!

4. The Ashes: This to me was one of the eye-opening pieces of how brutal crowds can be. I have already expressed this bit at the start of the article. For cricket lovers, the Headingly test was one the craziest test matches – I remember watching Ben stokes innings! I, for the first time saw the test match solely from Australia’s eyes. I now understand what a nasty blow it was for them. Some losses hit hard and this was one of those for them. Even as a spectator, at times it’s difficult to move on the next match and one can only imagine how difficult it must be for the players themselves. There is nothing else better in life than sports to teach you the lesson of moving on.

5. The Arrival of Self- Belief: When you believe in yourself, the world is no longer a threatening place. What matters at the end of the day is self-belief. The journey was not about enhancing cricketing skills, it was about rebuilding confidence. It was about making adjustments to your skills and creating strategies to play to your strengths. It was about functioning as a team. It was not about changing things over-night, it was about enduring the pain and baby steps of rebuilding confidence.

6. Leadership: A leadership role is at times viewed as a leader giving instructions or orders.  A leadership role is so much more. To lead from the front even if you are down in the dumps, it's not easy. To understand the strengths of each individual and how they all fit in as a team, requires some tough decisions. To coach effectively is like walking on the sword - you have to push your team members but not bum them out! This series is a great lesson on how to coach and lead from the front.

These were just some of the things that stood out for me. I quite liked the background score and cinematic shots. I loved listening to insights of individual players and the fun moments of the dressing room. As a cricket lover, I have always wondered what happens behind the doors.

Do watch it and share your insights too.

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