State of cricket

'Don’t just sit on your behind': A documentary has urgent advice for cricket fans

The British film ‘Death of a Gentleman’ dives into the murky world of international cricket administration and details what needs to be done to save the game.

There’s a particularly striking moment in Death of a Gentleman, an investigative cricket documentary that will be screened across the United Kingdom from August 7. Gideon Haigh, the respected Australian writer, was asked by directors Jarrod Kimber, Sam Collins and Johnny Blank if there would ever be an independent International Cricket Council. His response sums up all that is wrong with cricket at the moment: “Before or after hell freezes over?”

Death of a Gentleman, which was the closing title at the recently concluded London India Film Festival, painstakingly examines the opaque world of cricketing administration and provides an indictment of this Machiavellian world, where every cricket administrator is looking for profit over growing the game. Not surprisingly, N Srinivasan and Lalit Modi also feature in the 96-minute film.

Death of a Gentleman took shape in 2011, when the filmmakers set out to investigate the rumoured slow death of Test cricket. “This is a format which has been around for over a hundred years, it’s already been tested,” Collins said. “But Test cricket must be encouraged. It must be allowed to flourish. All Test cricket teams must have their best players.”

An attempt to understand the current state of Test cricket became something more. The filmmakers discovered that a majority of cricket administrators only want to maximise revenue. They travelled to England, India and Australia and spoke to officials from various cricket boards. They also held conversations with individuals from the cricketing world. The film weaves in these interviews, as well as a sub-plot about Ed Cowan, an Australian batsman who made his debut for his country in 2011.

By 2014, the filmmakers found that Test cricket was being “carved up,” as Kimber put it during a question-and-answer session about the documentary before the first Ashes Test in Cardiff. “Cricket administrations were conniving with each other to ensure that Test cricket remained only in the control of two to three nations,” he said, referring to Australia, England and India.

Indian hand

Among the many interviews, the most interesting one, especially for Indians, is with N Srinivasan, the controversial chairperson of the International Cricketing Council and one of the guilty parties in the so-called carve-up. The directors also make allusions to Gurunath Meiyappan, Srinivasan’s equally controversial son-in-law, and asks whether Srinivasan deserves to be ICC President.

Kimber and Collins were surprised when Srinivasan agreed to come on camera, considering his reputation for avoiding the media. However, the interview won’t be unfamiliar for Indian cricket fans. Srinivisan is his usual inscrutable self, parroting his pet themes of how he only cares for cricket and proclaiming that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

Can a documentary about the commercialisation of international cricket be complete without Lalit Modi? He appears numerous times as a shadowy figure, providing plenty of quotable quotes. Despite the many allegations and controversies that surround Modi, he is portrayed in an ambiguous light.

According to Collins, this was deliberate. “You can’t ignore Modi if you’re talking about cricket administration – keep in mind, that he does have a track record of growing the game,” Collins pointed out. “We’ve deliberately been ambiguous on him and given the chance to the viewer to make their own minds up regarding Modi.”

Game changer

The documentary is the first step towards a “Clean Cricket” campaign that will be launched by the filmmakers. “We’re trying to raise public awareness through this documentary,” Collins said. “We’re trying to tell you, if you’re a cricket fan, go out and do something about the game you love. Take ownership of the game. Don’t just sit on your behind. Because if you don’t do it, the game will die and you will be as much to blame as anyone else.”

The filmmakers plan on filing petitions to the governments of various countries, imploring them to look at how cricket is being administered and bring in reform. “We need to have independent governance of cricket – we desperately need people to step in and find a way out of this current method of maximising revenue without any care for the future of the game,” Collins said.

In a poignant moment in the documentary, Kimber has an outburst, echoing the thoughts of cricket fans all over the world: “No wonder cricket’s dying...if everyone just goes, ‘well, you know, I can’t say anything on camera but I can hint at the fact that something might be wrong’...it’s like, just come out and say it! If everyone comes out and says something, maybe something could change.”

Death of a Gentleman might be an investigative film, but it also celebrates a game that has captivated millions of fans for decades. If the filmmakers’ impassioned plea to “clean cricket” is successful, fans all over the world will be thankful to them.



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From Indian pizzas in San Francisco to bhangra competitions in Boston

A guide to the Indian heart of these American cities.

The United States of America has for long been more than a tourist destination for Indians. With Indians making up the second largest immigrant group in the USA, North American cities have a lot to offer to the travel weary Indian tourist. There are umpteen reasons for an Indian to visit vibrant education and cultural hubs like Boston and San Francisco. But if you don’t have a well-adjusted cousin to guide you through the well-kept Indian secrets, this guide to the Indian heart of Boston and San Francisco should suffice for when you crave your fix.

Boston

If you aren’t easily spooked, Boston is the best place to be at in October due to its proximity to Salem. You can visit the Salem Witch Village to learn about present-day wiccans and authentic witchcraft, or attend séances and Halloween parades with ghosts, ghouls and other frightening creatures giving you a true glimpse of America during Halloween. But the macabre spirit soon gives way to a dazzling array of Christmas lighting for the next two months. The famed big Christmas trees are accompanied by festive celebrations and traditions. Don’t miss The Nutcracker, the sugar-laced Christmas adventure.

While it upholds its traditions, Boston is a highly inclusive and experimental university town. It welcomes scores of Indian students every year. Its inclusiveness can be gauged from the fact that Berklee College of Music released a well-received cover of AR Rahman’s Jiya Jale. The group, called the Berklee Indian Ensemble, creates compositions inspired by Indian musical styles like the Carnatic thillana and qawwali.

Boston’s Bollywood craze is quite widespread beyond the campuses too. Apple Cinemas in Cambridge and Regal Fenway Cinemas in Fenway can be your weekly fix as they screen all the major upcoming Bollywood movies. Boston tends to be the fighting ground for South Asian Showdowns in which teams from all over the North-Eastern coast gather for Bollywood-themed dance offs. The Bhangra competitions, especially, are held with the same energy and vigour as back home and are open to locals and tourists alike. If nothing else, there are always Bollywood flash mob projects you can take part in to feel proudly desi in a foreign land.

While travellers love to experiment with food, most Indian travellers will agree that they need their spice fix in the middle of any foreign trip. In that respect, Boston has enough to satisfy cravings for Indian food. North Indian cuisine is popular and widely available, but delicious South Indian fare can also be found at Udupi Bhavan. At Punjab Palace, you can dig into a typical North Indian meal while catching a Bollywood flick on one of their TVs. Head to Barbecue International for cross-continental fusion experiments, like fire-roasted Punjabi-style wings with mint and chilli sauce.

Boston is prominent on the radar of Indian parents scouting for universities abroad and the admission season especially sees a lot of prospective students and parents looking for campus tours and visits. To plan your visit, click here.

San Francisco

San Francisco is an art lover’s delight. The admission-free Trolley Dances, performed in October, focus on engaging with the communities via site-specific choreographies that reflect the city’s cultural diversity. Literature lovers can experience a Dickensian Christmas and a Victorian holiday party at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, a month-long gala affair starting in November.

As an Indian, you’ll be spoilt for choice in San Francisco, especially with regards to food. San Francisco’s sizeable Indian population, for example, has several aces hidden up its sleeve. Take this video by Eater, which claims that the ‘Indian’ pizza at Zante’s Restaurant is the city’s best kept secret that needs outing. Desi citizens of San Francisco are big on culinary innovation, as is evident from the popularity of the food truck Curry Up Now. With a vibrant menu featuring Itsy Bitsy Naan Bits and Bunty Burrito and more, it’s not hard to see why it is a favourite among locals. Sunnyvale, with its large concentration of Indians also has quirky food on offer. If you wish to sample Veer Zaara Pizza, Dabangg Pizza or Agneepath Pizza, head to Tasty Subs & Pizza.

There are several Indian temples in Sunnyvale, Fremont and San Jose that also act as effective community spaces for gatherings. Apart from cultural events, they even hold free-for-all feasts that you can attend. A little-known haven of peace is the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple. Their Anjaneya World Cafe serves delicious mango lassi; the beverage is a big hit among the local population.

If you’re looking for an Indian movie fix during your travels, the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival’s theme this year is Bollywood and Beyond. Indian film enthusiasts are in for a treat with indie projects, art-house classics, documentaries and other notable films from the subcontinent being screened.

San Francisco’s autumn has been described as ‘Indian summer’ by the locals and is another good season to consider while planning a trip. The weather lends more vigour to an already vibrant cultural scene. To plan your trip, click here.

An Indian traveller is indeed spoilt for choice in Boston and San Francisco as an Indian fix is usually available just around the corner. Offering connectivity to both these cities, Lufthansa too provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its India-bound flights and flights departing from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.