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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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.