There’s a certain integrity about the sport of cricket. Unlike an afternoon at the football, where fans scream a set of expletives at the opposition (and often their own team), that’s just not cricket. There’s a distinctive spirit to this gracious sport, a nobility that sets it apart – and that can all be attributed to the test match, where players are put through the motions, as a trial of one’s resolve, of their diligence and assiduity. A rare spectacle in sport, thriving in tradition and culture. Test match cricket, however, is slowly fading away.
Test matches take place across five days, with the winner determined at the end of this gruelling contest, matching players for not only their ability, but their intellect. For many, such as filmmakers Sam Collins, Jarrod Kimber and Johnny Blank, it’s the heartbeat of the sport, epitomising everything that is unique about this ‘gentleman’s’ game. However in recent years, a more rapid, bite-sized form of the sport has come into prominence; Twenty20 – where test matches are condensed into a mere matter of hours. With the governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC) not prepared to make the necessary changes, given their interests are seemingly on their own pockets – we delve into the role India plays, and in particular the financially dominant Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the rise of the Indian Premier League (IPL), where the purist, idealogical elements of cricket are rejected in favour of a more extravagant, profitable approach – with the league sharing more in common with the glamour of Bollywood as opposed to the traditions of the sport at hand.
Collins and Kimber travel around the world to meet many of those involved, with a specific focus on Australian batsman Eddie Cowan – a humble husband and father who thrives in test match cricket – as a defensive player who can bat on for hours – as opposed to his contemporaries such as David Warner, who play a notably attacking game, more risky, and for most of those in attendance; more entertaining. It’s the latter who represents the future of the sport. But this documentary is not restricted solely to a comment on the game of cricket, but it’s an indictment of society. Many of these issues can be applied to life off the pitch, where the rich and powerful (in cricketing terms that’s England, Australia and India) seek to serve themselves primarily, and how the youth of today are wanting everything quicker, in bite size form. Test match cricket is a dying art not just because of money – but because of us, the people.
What transpires is a film devoid of impartiality. This documentary is a rallying call, a protest movie – that much is evident when the appeal comes up on the screen before the closing credits, with a ‘sign the petition’ motto lingering above. While this may all get a little ‘save the rainforest’ at times, it’s let off the hook as it’s well-argued, intelligent and daring in its conviction. This may begin as a seemingly placid take on preserving tradition, but as we progress towards the latter stages, this takes on the form of a courageous investigative feature, an expose of sorts.
Of course on a surface level, this longing to remain tied to an element of the sport with an imperialistic legacy seems a little protective – and even calling cricket a ‘gentleman’s sport’ implies it’s restricted to a type of person ( i.e. a man). But there’s far more to it than this, it’s a film about maintaining a strand of a sport where winning isn’t the be all and end all – it’s a rare spectacle, and the old-fashioned nature of it is an endearing factor, not a hinderance. If you want an example of why test cricket should have a future in the modern game, just tune in to the ongoing Ashes series between England and Australia. Or, you know, just watch this movie. Either way you’ll leave feeling enriched, entertained, and enlightened.