The third edition of the cricketing drama that unfolds in locker rooms and boardrooms rather than on the pitch has sharpened its edges and toned down the window dressing.

Created by Karan Anshuman, the 10-part third season of Inside Edge on Amazon Prime Video benefits from having a single director. Kanishk Varma takes control of the material as well as the performances.

There are the old familiars such as Bhaisaab (Aamir Bashir), who finds himself pushed into a corner, his stoic exterior finally breaking. Vikrant (Vivek Oberoi), with slicked-back hair and menacing facial scar, is still all kinds of evil. Accompanied by his whip-wielding wife Sudha, this couple is single-minded about power and vengeance.

Richa Chadha plays a less frantic, more scheming Zarina. Sapna Pabbi gets a meatier part as Bhaisaab’s daughter Mantra who, supported by cricketer boyfriend Vayu (Tanuj Virmani), is on a mission to legalise betting.

Vayu, still the show’s MVP, and his sister Rohini (Sayani Gupta) are dusting off skeletons from their childhood closet. Amit Sial’s Devender becomes critical to the unfolding drama that once again focuses on spot fixing, betting and other issues plaguing the richest sport in India.

A court-appointed commission investigates allegations of gambling and fixing in the Power Play League and makes recommendations aimed at restoring fair play in decision-making.

Things are hotting up as a Pakistan-India series is about to take place in India after 13 years. Vandalised pitches, bomb threats, brokering and horse-trading are at fever pitch. The ones who are losing out are the unsuspecting players and their enthusiastic fans.

Headline-making news stories of the 1990s and after provide fodder for the most significant themes that propel this season. While the key players are the same, there are some interesting additions.

Rohit is the popular and competitive star batsman struggling to balance his public image and personal life. Akshay Oberoi plays the part thoughtfully and intuitively. As Imaad, the spin bowler from Kashmir facing prejudice, Sidhant Gupta’s performance takes you by surprise. Punjabi accent notwithstanding, Sunny Hinduja hits it out of the park as the Pakistan team’s captain.

The production design (Saini S Johray) and costumes – so over the top in season two – have been tempered, as have the performances, including Vivek Oberoi’s smug Vikrant. Jargon and technicalities regarding telecast rights, bidding, auctions and betting are lobbed thick and fast. And the writers (Anshuman, Sailesh Ramaswamy and Ananya Mody) are mindfully woke, with the inclusion of LGBTQ characters and women at the top of their game. Vivek Shah’s cinematography and Neeraj Udhwani’s dialogue significantly contribute to inserting the viewer into the stadia and inner sanctums.

The gates are left wide open for a follow-up. The contest of skill and sportsmanship on the pitch has transcended to a battle of the sexes off it. Where the men are intoxicated by power and greed, the women astutely and patiently manoeuvre circumstances and individuals to their advantage. Even with several googlies and some inescapable over-the-top characterisations, this is the most uniform and absorbing season of Inside Edge.

Inside Edge season 3 (2021).