Review: Death of a Gentleman

After the success and positive feedback of my last review, which looked at the quirky cricket book “The Grade Cricketer”, it seems high time that I have a closer look at another cultural cricket offering out this month.

“Death of a Gentleman” is a documentary film from cricket journalists Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber and has been highly anticipated in the cricketing world for years. Now showing regularly in the UK, the film is set to come out on DVD soon in Australia – and it’s sure to be already turning heads amongst the cricket establishment.

I’ve known of Collins and Kimber for a while, originally from their amusing ESPNCricinfo web special called “The Chuck Fleetwood-Smiths” which they started many years back. Their light-hearted video chat at the cricket after a day’s play (pimped up with crazy graphics and a troublesome lion) became so popular with readers that it seems to have started its own online mini-genre: the post-match expert chat on the side of the pitch. And the world is definitely better for it.

But back to the film, which is a different prospect entirely and sees the two journos take off their clown hats for a while and delve deeper into the sport they so clearly love. DOAG examines in detail the leading role played by India, England and Australia in the financial control of modern cricket. It also examines the wheelings and dealings at the top of Indian cricket’s BCCI organisation, and the links it has to the wealthy Indian Premier League. There are a few laughs in there, but it’s definitely not the main attraction. This is serious.

In my opinion, there are two reasons why anyone with even a passing interest in cricket should watch the film. Firstly, Collins and Kimber again – just like they did with their post-match chats – have pushed the boundaries of cricket journalism here. What starts as an (almost) innocent documentary just about the decline of test cricket, metamorphoses over the course of the film to become a sometimes ominous examination of the life and times of modern cricket. In the end, the dying gentleman is not just test cricket, it is the sport itself. Not surprisingly, it gets pretty hairy at times for the two filmmakers, as they pursue reluctant, powerful interview partners and their stories. Collins, who also narrates the film, is not afraid to discuss his fears and doubts as he pursues his protagonists across the world. This willingness to question his own work and give insight into his emotions is quite unique and takes the viewer on a real journey.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly,  DOAG gives detailed insight into a world that cricket fans seldom see. With the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) move from Lord’s to Dubai in 2005, one of the world’s most important sporting bodies has gone from London exclusivity to desert isolation. Still, very few of the decisions made inside the ICC are reported on openly. Not just because of this, the 106  cricketing nations around the world – both established and aspiring ones – are often confused by the change in policy of the sport’s governing body. It seems that a bit of this sort of transparency is clearly something that would do cricket good. After all, the sport’s administrators hardly want to be exposed to the same sort of headlines as football.

Oh, and does it give an answer to why the West Indies are so weak on their current tour of Australia? Yep, that’s in there too. The Caribbean is looked at closely in the film, with some big names from the region in interview. You’ll just have to watch it and see.

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