Expectations:Very high. Jarrod Kimber is one of the finest cricket journalists going around, everything he seems to write is a must read. It also deals with a subject I spend altogether too much time and enthusiasm on – cricket. I’d like to consider myself as more than an average fan who just watches what’s happening on TV, I’m one of those who knows all about what happens backstage, the movers and shakers of that world. Cricket statistics & trivia is one of the few areas in the world where I can genuinely pride myself on being better off then the average man on the street, a top 5 %iler who wants to be a top 1%iler. Being able to be the one who responds to silly cricket queries on social media is something I do derive pride from even if it’s not something I’d like to admit to myself very openly! While I had read about this movie when it was produced and released in the UK (?) about a year ago, I would’ve liked to watch it earlier. So when the guys at TVF did release it exclusive to their platform – I explored further. Not too expensive, a breeze transaction-ally (download app, make payment, watch) and here I was on a Saturday morning watching this on my cell phone.
I’ve already written about the impact of expectations on a movie without reaching any conclusion. But if I were to sum up my experience with this documentary of sorts in one word, it’d be ‘disappointment’. And I’m disappointed that I’m disappointed (if that makes any sense at all) because I really would have wanted to have come away richer for this experience or time invested, which did not happen. I’ll try to outline the reasons here:
Firstly, what’s the target audience for this documentary? Is it the casual cricket fans who watches whatever is going on on the television? He (or she) who has a predilection for the T20’s and IPLs over the real deal as Kimber and Collins would rather have it? If it is these folks then the movie probably serves its purpose – it’s an educational one. However for the hardcore fan, for those of us who follow cricket off the screen as well, who read about the boardrooms and the dressing rooms – this is a recap exercise. It essentially sums up what’s happened over a 3 year period listing out the usual problems and issues which have been debated to the moon and back – test cricket is dying, too much money in T20, generational shifts, corruption in the boards who govern world cricket…yada yada yada. This comes to us from the duo, from cricketers, from administrators and many many experts, broadcasters and others – the who’s who of cricket coverage really. Unfortunately though, there’s nothing new!
Secondly, and this is related to the first point – what exactly was Kimber & Collins’ role here? Were they the one’s responsible for the exposé as they call it? If that is the case, and it is thanks to them that we were able to read about the Big 3 takeover, the shamelessness of the likes of Srinivasan and Giles’ – then it doesn’t come out strongly enough. However it they’re just part of the universe of cricket journalists who’re deeply concerned about this and are choosing to highlight this – well (1) they’re a bit late and (2) again, they don’t tell us anything from behind the scenes that we don’t know.
Thirdly, the biggest issue I felt was that the movie was still too vague. I understand they started out with a vague idea of what to do – but, I feel you need a solid ‘problem statement’ as an MBA would call it. And I also understand this would keep evolving, but here it also seemed liked it kept changing. And so we went from Ed Cowan’s story (where we were led to assume he would be the pivot around which this story would revolve), about the joy’s of test cricket, to the evolution of T20 and why it’s more popular, to how revenue is distributed in cricket, to how cricket needs to expand and the importance of the Olympics, again back to boardroom politics in Dubai, to the Srinivasan-Modi war and then strangely back to Cowan. And some of it seems – excuse my presumptuousness or cynicism – pointless. I mean what were they hoping travelling to Dubai for a meeting shrouded in mystery from stakeholders who they’d already met before? I’m sure investigative journalism is based on hunches and arduous journey’s like this where you often find out something just because you’re in the right place at the right time, but there’re bound to be more failures in that method than successes. I don’t think what doesn’t work should be there just because it was shot, or a trip was taken.
The USP of this movie-documentary is the exclusive interviews with Giles Clarke and Srinivasan. Clarke comes off looking like a total tool, an absolute caricature of the rotten politician. Srinivasan starts of OK, but then gets more and more sillier with the kind of statements he make. Which is of course a function of what he’s done as well. Haroon Lorgat, David Becker, Lalit Modi also give their bytes to this exercise to give the exercise more credibility. Some of the vignettes and montages that they’ve put together are quite fabulous. And the editing, the cinematography and the feel of the movie is really professional and classy.
But there’re lots of misses as well. One day cricket is not mentioned. None of the other leagues mushrooming across the world, which by 2014 when this movie was being filmed were in existence and more – the Big Bash, the CPL, the Natwest Blast, the Ram Slam, the BPL at the least are even referred to or their impact in adding money independently of India to their game. There is very little effort to get a wider view of what some of the players who’ve been positively influenced by these tournaments around the world is who may never be able to make it as an ‘international’ test player. And why, why in this time and age does this get a release in India, the biggest cricket market almost a year after it was released outside when it’s eventual release isn’t even mainstream? A lot of bridge has flown under the water since then, and for sure the relevance has been diluted.
I really really like and respect Kimber for his works – he comes across an intelligent young man, with integrity and a genuine willingness to positively save the game. I just don’t think Death of a Gentleman is going to do this beyond educating a mass audience out there. And if that’s the aim, it needs better distribution – not slipping it in on a platform like TVF. 2 and a half stars then.
★★ and half