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 catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers 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 internalised 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.