Television heartthrob Barun Sobti brings his laidback charm to the role of Ron Sen (real name Rononjoy), a sleek agent from Kolkata who has married his passion for cricket with his talent for commerce. Ron is at the intersection of the big game and the ones on the side that keep its cricketers well-oiled. When Ron starts putting the moves on sports journalist Shonali (Panchi Bora), he appears to be making yet another deal, one that involves information.
Shonali is, of course, smitten. Ron, who is aptly described as “easy” by a former girlfriend, proves hard to resist. Mitali Ghoshal’s debut film makes sure to capitalise on Sobti’s slow-burn intensity and craggy-faced appeal (Barun’s Sobti vast fanbase alert: lots of bare-bodied shots!) Flashbacks to past trauma, Ron’s refusal to drink alcohol and his preference for roadside tea, and moody shots of lonely dinners at his luxury apartment burnish his credentials as a maverick among the mercenaries.
Ron’s fall from grace after he is falsely accused of being involved in a betting scandal, then, is as predictable as his healthy strike rate. Ron loses his clients overnight, and sets his sights on an injured cricketer to clamber his way back to the top.
The fallout of the scandal that momentarily knocks Ron off his pedestal is barely explored by Samrat’s English-Hindi-Bengali screenplay. The setback proves to be a device to introduce the movie’s secondary hero – the talented batsman Shome (Amartya Ray, who has also composed the soundtrack). Shome’s promising career has been cut short by injury and shattered self-confidence. However, like the scandal that suddenly swallows up Ron’s career, Shome’s return to the limelight, aided by Rajit Kapur’s sports psychologist, is too rapid to be credible.
Director Mitali Ghoshal has 134 minutes to develop her theme of redemption, but she spends too much time going over excessively familiar ground. 22 Yards does benefit from nicely etched characters and a feel for cricketing denizens who are sometimes forgotten as the game gets too big for its own good. A T-20 trot becomes a one-day trudge, but the relief at a movie about cricket that doesn’t involve nationalism cannot be understated.