Death of a Gentleman

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A surprisingly absorbing tale of the slow death of test cricket.

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Available on DVD and on demand from Mon 26 Oct 2015

Sam CollinsJarrod KimberJohnny Blank / UK / 2015 / 99 mins

The gentleman in question is test cricket – the glacially slow five day version of the sport. Fortunately for the uninitiated, Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber’s film doesn’t require you to know your googlies from your silly mid-off; instead, what begins as simple quest to examine the state of the game they love transforms into a tale of how power, money and maladministration have almost destroyed it.

105 countries play cricket, but only ten play test cricket and the control of the game rests with three: England, Australia and particularly India. Since the rise of limited overs cricket and the Indian Premier League, India’s power over the game has been unquestioned. Its governing body is the de facto decision maker and has been behind the starving of resources to the smaller cricketing nations as well as the poaching of talent to the IPL, cutting off the lifeblood of the test game.

This isn’t a film about bungs in brown envelopes or match fixing, but how power and leverage corrupt. The villains of the piece are the administrators and officials of the national and international cricket bodies. The filmmakers, much to their own surprise, manage to gain access to the main players, including the Toad of Toad Hall-like head of the ECB Giles Clarke and the man who holds all the cards in world cricket, cement magnate and head of the BCCI Narayanaswami Srinivasan.

They also capture cricket’s governance as it undergoes its greatest transformation, including moving ICC headquarters from sedate Lords to a glittering skyscraper in Dubai. Along the way they undercover a web of links and powerplays that make the supposedly gentlemanly sport of cricket seem like Game of Thrones.

Journalists Collins and Kimber are not natural documentarians, which makes them all the more engaging. First and foremost they’re fans and, whether you’re a cricket aficionado or not, you can’t help being drawn in by their increasing bewilderment and anger as they go along.

Like test cricket itself, this is a slow burn, but – whether you love the sound of leather on willow or not – this is a fascinating, if depressingly familiar, story of sporting principle versus power.