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.
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.”
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.