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Ah cricket, the sport that is seen as a quintessentially English one, a sport that is the pinnacle of fair-play and sportsmanship. But the documentary Death of a Gentleman sets out to prove there is something wrong with the state of cricket.
Death of a Gentleman was the product of Englishman Sam Collins and Australian Jarrod Kimber, two cricket journalists who set out to make a documentary about the decline of First Class Cricket and how to revive the sport, but ended up evolving to look at the people ruining the sport and how rotten they are.
Certain sports in recent times have been synonymous with corruption; we have just seen International Athletics being rocked by the reports about organized cheating, the FIFA scandal which has turned the organization into a running joke and the old allegations of host cities bribing votes for the Olympics and Winter Olympics such as Salt Lake City in 2000.
Watching Death of a Gentleman as a football (soccer) fan, I could see the parallels between FIFA and International Cricket Board (ICB), both acting like cartels, looking for cash and powers for their members. In the case of cricket, the ICB is dominated by the English, Australians and Indians because they have the largest TV audiences, which therefore leads to a vicious circle of the big three getting richer and rest getting poorer. The Indian leadership particularly, use their financial clout to force through an agenda that benefits them.
Like the beautiful game, cricket has a leading organization that lives in a bubble where they can ignore any criticisms against them and even attack their critics; Kimber’s press credentials were revoked during filming and allegations of racism were placed against him. Also the Indian Premier Cricket League has become the football version of the English Premier League, both leagues being filled with superstars on big wages, huge TV audiences and deals and the success of the leagues having knock-on affects on international teams – while the grassroots do not receive the funding they need.
Collins and Kimber were obviously passionate for their subject and they chronicled their journey, visiting stadiums and games, travelling to other nations for the documentary and their journalistic endeavours, debating with each other in hotel rooms and even sometimes recording themselves on their smartphones. The opening shot of the documentary is of a group of cricket players leaving an English village green after a game, showing the grassroots level of the game. Collins and Kimber also follow Ed Cowan, a First Class Australian Cricketer, a friend of Kimber’s who suffered injury but at the age of 29 was called up to play for his nation, showing the impact on the player and his wife.
However one of the questions Collins and Kimber put forward is Twenty/20 cricket sport or entertainment? But to many people they play and watch sports for entertainment, fans get bored if the game is dull or if their team does not play well, regardless of what sport they follow. As the documentary states, a problem that First Class suffers is that on an international level, the games are just an exercise of pride for the competing countries; except for major events like The Ashes, the First Class version of the game can be pretty boring for non-fans. The Twenty/20 and one day version of the game are great gateways for people to watch and play and have events like The Cricket World Cup to cheer your team or nation to win.
Death of a Gentleman was filmed with a skeleton crew. It gave Collins and Kimber the flexibility to film where they needed to. But the presentation of the documentary makes it seem more fitting for television, like a show for BBC’s Panorama than for theaters. Collins and Kimber mainly used face-to-face interviews with other journalists, former and current players and the sport’s governing officials and often filmed in offices or public spaces, giving off that televisual vibe and Collins and Kimber show the network of people controlling cricket – it was done using a blackboard and black-and-white filming like an episode of Panorama or Dispatches.
For fans of cricket, Death of a Gentleman is a must see, an eye-opening insight at how the sport is run. It is a well-researched and well-argued documentary even if some of the points are a little flawed.