A very good documentary. It's like a mirror image of FIFA.
Test cricket is the purest form of the second most popular sport on earth. It is steeped in tradition, history, heroes and legend. But challenged by its shorter, sexier and more commercial cousin, Twenty 20, it risks falling into obscurity. To unravel the complex reasons why the game’s leaders seem unwilling to save Test Cricket, two friends from opposite ends of the social scale, Old Etonian Sam Collins and larrikin Aussie Jarrod Kimber, embark on a journey across the cricketing empire. Along the way they befriend cricketer Eddie Cowan as he prepares to make his Test debut for Australia in from of 70,000 at The Melbourne Cricket Ground. As a story of deceit, incompetence and greed unfolds, it seems that whilst one man is preparing to live his dream, two others are trying to keep theirs from dying.Featuring Kevin Pietersen, Rahul Dravid, Michael Holding, Chris Gayle, Jonathan Agnew, David Warner, Ian Chappell, David Lloyd and many more iconic cricketing personalities, Death of a Gentleman is the acclaimed modern morality tale about money corrupting sport, and new power tearing history apart.
Very insightful look behind the commericality of the gentlemen's game. Money can corrupt anything it seems. Definitely worth the watch.
'Fire in Babylon' had the thrilling archive footage and the CLR James-inspired racial and post-colonial politics. 'Lagaan' had the David-and-Goliath fable transported to the Raj, and by far the best cinematic depiction of the actual sport ever seen. But make no mistake: 'Death of a Gentleman' is the most important cricket film - hell, the most important sports film - that has ever been or will ever be made.
The film has been several years in the making, but less than a week in the editing. Directors Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber, by their own admission, had to hastily re-cut the film to meet an absurdly tight deadline after less than glowing feedback from people who know what they’re talking about, and at times it shows.
The IPL and Twenty20 are too often and too easily conflated, the role of Ed Cowan as the film’s moral centre takes a long time to really integrate with the main narrative thrust, and I am not the first to note the lack of a ‘smoking gun’ - the one revelation too huge and too shocking for the audience and, as in the case of 'The Jinx', HBO’s recent expose of murderous tycoon Robert Durst, law enforcement, to ignore.
But to harp on such minutiae would to be entirely miss the point: the fact that this film exists at all would be enough to justify them. That it effortlessly manages to be both love letter to an ill friend and stirring polemic is remarkable. The film, and the sordid story of greedy myopia it documents, is a steady and inevitable mounting of evidence, much of it straight from the horses’ mouths.
BCCI president N. Srinivasan (who since the film's release has fallen from power), presenting himself as is his wont as a humble and pious public servant, refuses to answer the most innocent of direct questions about his involvement with Chennai Super Kings and sundry other such conflicts of interest; ICC legal director turned whistleblower David Becker talks of shady backroom diplomacy, and administrative power-grabs presented to the board and the cricketing world as done deals ready not for discussion but a rubber-stamp; and Giles Clarke, that enemy of good tailoring and newly appointed ECB president, waving away those who care about sports administration as cranks and bores.
It is Clarke who emerges as the starring villain of the piece, certainly when one watches the film in a full cinema as I did - he is brusque, dismissive, slimy and breathtakingly arrogant. This is no pantomime, but you wouldn’t have known that from the audience reaction. Clarke’s more prominent role is a reflection of the Teflon-coated Srinivasan’s ability to pull the strings without attracting much attention - you begin to see why he and Lalit Modi, who as always held court informatively and entertainingly at the post-screening Q&A, do not get along.
The film’s last act has an air of Kafka-esque gallows farce. The juxtaposition of Clarke barely acknowledging the waiting Collins and Kimber as he walks into a Dubai meeting room ready to sign away world cricket (and then putting David Richardson, the Big Three’s very own Comical Ali, in front of the press to spout platitudes about there being no Americans in Baghdad - sorry, about the future of cricket being secured) with shots of him beaming at Allen Stanford and his helicopter full of stolen money in 2008 is a darkly ironic one.
The film, and the future of cricket, hangs on the public seeing through the Big Three’s trick: putting out tightly worded conciliatory communiques whilst behind the scenes doing the exact opposite. For ‘growing the game’, read ‘shrinking the World Cup’. For ‘promoting the game among associate and affiliate members’, read ‘doing everything in our power to prevent cricket from becoming an Olympic sport so that everyone else remains financially dependent on the crumbs from our table and therefore compliant’. We have always been at war with Eurasia.
After despair comes defiance. At its heart, Death of a Gentleman is not a eulogy but a call to arms to defend a game under siege. And who better to write the revolutionary anthem than Gideon Haigh, cricket’s lugubrious prophet? With customary pith he sums up the cartel’s aims - “[they] run the game to make money rather than making money to run the game” - and gives those who may be sceptical reason to fight it - “Twenty20 needs something to be shorter than.”
This last point is crucial. Without Test cricket to give the various cricket-tainment leagues context and a self-replenishing talent pool from which the franchises populate and sell themselves - roll up, roll up, see the best players in the world in your backyard! - the shine will soon fade, and the sport will fade into obscurity. But like all good robber barons, Srinivasan, Clarke and their cronies at Cricket Australia will by then have long since have taken the money and run.
If you’re reading this, you love cricket. You understand, even if only implicitly, what it represents, and you won’t stand idly by as it is put in a gilded cage and left to starve. So watch the film, and even if you haven’t yet talk about it, tweet about it, share reviews such as this, and, finally, go to changecricket.com and join the fight to save it.
Charting the downfall of the ‘gentleman’s game’ at the hands of money hungry administrators, this is one for cricket lovers, sports lovers, or even people who just hate what money can do to people. Funny at times, tragic at others, a lot of the time i couldn’t believe what I was watching. How do these guys get away with it? We need to do something, and quickly. #changecricket p.s Ed Cowan is a legend
This film is a much needed expose of the power/money hungry tyrants currently running our game. As an amateur cricketer myself I am dismayed at the attempts to commodify and monetise cricket and hope this film can be a vehicle for change!