Documentary film Death of a Gentleman hits on bigger story than just cricket
The 10-day London Indian Film Festival begins on Thursday and closes with a documentary that begins by asking if Test cricket is still a sport relevant to today’s satellite television audiences.
Death of a Gentleman sets out to explore the effects of the shorter version of the game, T20, attracting far greater numbers.
As cricket journalists Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber investigate, however, they realise they have a bigger story on their hands. It appears the big three Test-playing nations of India, Australia and England have been flexing their muscles at the International Cricket Council to cherry-pick television contracts and monopolise the sporting calendar.
Up until the millennium, cricket has been synonymous with fair play and giving everyone an equal chance. The filmmakers argue that the current situation means that countries such as West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand will become second-class citizens in the world of cricket.
The men who catch the ire of the filmmakers are Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board and N Srinivasan, the ICC chairman and former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
“We started making one film and we ended up making another,” says Collins. “One of the things is that, by at the end of the film, in trying to take down Srinivasan and Clarke, we have actually failed in that. We haven’t uncovered the scandal in the same way as has happened to Fifa.
“But what we have captured is a moral scandal, what these guys are doing is turning a global game into a personal fiefdom at the expense of 102 countries and a billion fans around the world.”
The gentleman referred to in the title is the sport and the sense of fair play. The film posits that once cricket administrators started to realise the value of the cricket rights, protecting their own financial interests became more important than promoting the game and its traditional values. The filmmakers argue that more effort should have been made to push cricket as an Olympic sport, and that the reduction of the size of the next World Cup from 14 teams to 10 counters what is happening in other sports.
“We were working on the film for four years,” says Collins. “There comes a point where you have to draw a line on it. What has happened to cricket is that it’s been taken over by three countries and those regulations are in place, and until 2023 every major event will take place in England, India and Australia.
The filmmakers travelled from England and Australia to India and Dubai searching for answers about financial interest and the direction the sport is heading.
“We thought the best way to handle those things is we showed you those guys, we have shown you the type of conflict of interest that is at play and shown you the dubious motivations,” says Collins. “And anything that happens from this point on, it should not come as a surprise if actual corruption is revealed to have been going on. What we have shown you is a system that is open to manipulation by individuals.”
The filmmakers also interview prominent cricketers about the state of the sport, focusing on Australian batsman Ed Cowan as he makes his Test debut. Despite producing a film that is a celebration of an old game and is a condemnation of how it is currently run, Collins remains an idealist about how the sport should be.
“There are so many artificial divisions in the world – and sport and cricket is supposed to be something that pulls you together. In Test cricket, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. If we are in Dubai and see people play cricket and ask to join in and they say yes, then you have made some friends.”
• The London Indian Film Festival runs from Thursday until July 26 at venues throughout the city. For more information, visit londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk
Updated: July 13, 2015 04:00 AM