I normally don’t review past releases unless it’s a hidden gem and strongly reccomended. However I saw ‘Death of a Gentleman’ on Netflix, on insistence from couple of Facebook Cricket group members, and felt the need to highlight the convenient conclusion the movie tries to impose.
In this social media age of being too quick to judge people, I want to make it clear I have watched all days of the current West Indies India test match series to the point I could. Even on working weekdays, I have watched from 10 pm SGT to around 2am SGT before the needs of going to office, next day, made me sleep. Offcourse am watching the first T20 game between both teams, as I write this. Meaning to say, I love the sport. Since 25 June 1983.
Death of a Gentleman is a documentary by two Cricket Journalists – Sam Collins & Jarrod Kimber – keen on investigating the rapid decline of test cricket due to the changing ways of functioning of the ICC – International Cricket Council. The ICC is run majorly by the BCCI (Board of Cricket Control India), ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) and ACB (Australian Cricket Board).
The movie tracks the career and emotions of Australian test opener Ed Cowan (played 18 tests) and how the advent of IPL, growing powers of BCCI, is bringing death to test cricket. The movie tries to draw a statement how sport should be run in spirit of sport and not only for money. There are enough grillings on ECB chief Giles Clarke, BCCI chief N Srinivasan, sob views from Tim May to Lalit Modi.
But the movie has ignored facts.
When test cricket was at its prime, cricket was a sport dealing in millions. With IPL and Indian subcontinent’s viewership power, satellite television rights, it now deals in billions. Whine as you may, cricket now is much bigger sport, bigger career option to kids, played more across the world, in varied formats than before. BCCI has been prime catalyst in this transformation.
BCCI have effectively tapped on India’s cricket following craze to make it into a superpower. This is dot like how English Premier League tapped into Asia’s football following craze to get way ahead of other football leagues of the world. I want to see a documentary where they state how EPL has cashed on, hyped on, ignored local talents despite decades of inconsistent to unimpressive results in Europe or continental tournaments – clubs or country.
Today EPL clubs are queuing up to play friendlies in Asia. Today cricket teams are queuing up to play a series against India. If other smaller nations are begging for a series vs India for revenue, they just need to look into themselves first.
Between 1980 to 2000, no major team outside the subcontinent toured India more than three times! Three times in 20 years. Each of those nations – Australia, England, West Indies, New Zealand – have toured India four or more times on the following 16 years, ie between 2000-2016.
The land where Ian Botham would only send his mother in law, is now hallowed. All complaints of mosquitoes, beggars, prawn curries and stomach upset, rats in hotel rooms etc have stopped. India is now where everyone wants to play. If playing career is over then oiling BCCI for commentary stints start. Or if you are as handsome as Brett Lee, then Bollywood career kicks off too.
When Jacques Kallis was playing his final test innings at Durban, Dec 2012, in a test which South Africa won over a star studded crowd drawing Indian team, less than 5000 spectators were on ground to see it. Did BCCI, ACB or ECB ask crowds to stay home than cheer their biggest star?
Truth be told, number of test matches has been highest in the 1996-2012 era. There is no other 16 year period where tests were played more. This era coincides with Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa, England and Pakistan having their best teams ever in history.
However, times have changed and it’s true that there is no other sport where audiences wait patiently for over 100 hrs for result of a game. Test cricket as the movie brilliantly says is a ‘test’ and the only sport where ‘fat men, thin men, tall men, short men ..all can play’. But unless crowds come to watch it, it won’t be paying enough.
India has consistently played its stars in test format and if anything T20 cricket (and ODI cricket) has improved test match scoring rates and given more result oriented tests. BCCI turned a bland West Indies home test series into a ‘Sachin Tendulkar retirement canival’, in 2013. There’s a limit to how much you can stretch a thing already falling out of fashion.
Expecting BCCI / ICC to give more funds to a New Zealand or a West Indies or a China (who just gets 30000$ annually) or an Ireland hoping Cricket gets popular is long shot. In last thirty years only two nations have grown powerful onfield – Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. You are back to the subcontinent!
Hence, showing Ed Cowan’s debut (in the movie), emotions behind it, his father’s words and then showing Chennai Super Kings (IPL team) ads of dark looking, yellow attire people, crazily dancing inside a bus, and correlating it to test cricket’s death is pure racist connotation.
IPL is a cricket-meets-showbiz extravaganza and it has only got new audiences to the games. BCCI have done it in a country with zero sports culture, two Olympic medals in 2016 and where other sports bodies are craving for money to sustain.
Ones who should be cribbing should be other sports bodies, cinema multiplex owners and television series producers. Anyone else cribbing, and has money, has already started their own IPL equivalent – in own country, state, city or even colony. You imitate and you whine. Wow.
Or just Powerplay
If England or Australia had started this concept they would have wielded all powers. As always is the case with big money and sports. When ECB were big, all Cricket world cups only went to England (1975-1983). When Manchester United own the largest audience over Asia, they can make world’s most expensive deals depriving not so rich clubs from best players.
When European field hockey boards were powerful, they changed the game (shifted hockey from grass to astroturf), rules to ensure Europe and not dark, thin looking Indians and Pakistanis, dominate hockey.
The pain in cricket is more because the dark, thin looking business heads gave it back. Hard.
Oh yes, the West Indies vs India T20 game just finished. The world no. 3 ranked team beat the no. 2 ranked team by one run off the last ball. On a day 489 runs were scored off 40 overs. At Florida. First time BCCI organised a competitive cricket match at USA.