Star – Cricket
Genre – Sports Documentary
Run Time – 100 minutes
Certificate – N/A
Country – U.K
Amazon – £8.50 DVD
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Test Cricket and British foreign policy are very similar beasts. On the surface they are all about this revered British sense of fairplay and moral stance but underneath we are just as conniving and tricky as everyone else deploying tactics to get the great game to go our way. We publicly accuse the Pakistani’s of picking the seam and scuffing the pitch whilst we do exactly the same, hiding behind that myth of the British sense of fair play. It was fair to say Bodyline was up there with Iraq in the sporting context, a ghastly hypocritical business in the sun.
Aussie cricket writer Jarrod Kember and British cricket blogger Sam Collins attempt to get to grips with what’s ‘not cricket’ these days in this engaging niche documentary that explores what they think has gone wrong with modern day cricket, in particular the obvious demise of test cricket around the world. But this film really could be made most years as cricket is always in flux.
There central thesis and accusation is that England and Australia cricket boards have struck a deal with the BCCI (Indian board of control) to carve up world cricket under the leadership of Jagmohan Dalmiya and undermine its administrators at the ICC. When the Indian cricket was led by the equally tricky Dalit Modhi, the creator of the IPL, he pushed the ICC towards splitting the money equally between the ten test playing nations. But the cricket powerplayers plotted against him and three years later he had a life ban for match fixing in the IPL, and Australia, England and India had made their move against the ICC and taking 50% of cricket’s revenues for themselves, then ECB chief Giles Clarke one of the big noises on that deal. The three nations said they generated most of cricket’s money and so they should have their fairshare. This, of course, reduced subsidies to nations like Pakistan and Sri-Lanka and they are now trading broke. The same trio has pushed for the ICC to reduce the World Cup down to ten teams so they get more money still.
Fearing the decay of test cricket because of the money spilt the ICC employed an independent arbiter to report on the game and make recommendations. An ex Judge called Ian Woolfe got that gig and suggested they share that money out more or the smaller nations will just shrivel up and there will be no test cricket. England under Clarke and India and Australia ignored it and crashed on enriching themselves. So poor were the finances of nations like the West Indies and Sri Lankan cricket that players were on less than a grand a day to play test and ODIs whilst others unpaid. No wonder match fixing peaked. West Indies biggest cricket star, Chris Gayle, says in the film that when you’re on 850 grand to play IPL then it’s a serious distraction to playing test cricket and no wonder the small nation’s cricket is dyeing out as the big names retire early to play IPL, as Mitchell Johnson and Younus Khan have done this week. And with the Big Bash in Australia and other franchise leagues in the Emirates and Bangladesh it will get worse still for the longer form of the game.
Giles Clarke had a lot of balls to juggle as the head of English cricket as he had to negotiate a huge deal with Sky to keep the domestic game going, hold on to his best English players to keep them away from the IPL and so English test cricket the strongest attended in the world and stay in favor with India. Our intrepid journalist certainly enjoys painting a rather arrogant Giles Clarke as the villain here and forgets what he has done for the game. I don’t think the likes I Pakistan, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe can be trusted with a tenth of a billion dollars each and I agree with India there. We have seen the corruption with FIFA and The Internal Olympic committee over the years to se what will happen if the smaller nations are trusted with power and equality.
The films only contrast is the boys following the test career of Ed Cowan, who gets his debut when Kember and Collins begin their project. This narrative line is supposed to represent the innocence of cricket against the backdrop of greed and division. But if Ed Cowan was offered 500k to play IPL he would probably be off. What this film is really about is the dislike of IPL and the fact India cashed in first, especially people from a multi million dollar company called ‘Indian Cement’, who have ex employees in all the important positions in Indian cricket, including Srinnasson, the current head of the IPL. But the two can co-exist as long as the other test playing nations accept India are franchise kings. You can’t set up the Big Bash and then moan about the erosion of test cricket. I know the ECB are desperate to start a franchise league in 2019 and have drawn up secretly plans to get rid of four counties, Northants one of them.
Because the film is essentially having ago at India wrestling control of the game from 100-years domination by the MCC this ends up a polemic against India. Kember says the Indians are blocking the concept of a world game and blocking nations like America and China getting involved by not pushing for cricket in the Olympics and helping to fund their cricket set up. He has a point. Dropping the 50 over World Cup down to ten teams is not what cricket fans want.
Since Richardson of South Africa took over the ICC last year there has been a feeling of poorer cricket teams going up against India. When the ICC was led by India thye allowed Asian players to get away with a lot so to empower performance and results, none more so than the 15% arm bend rule to allow brown skin cricketers to carry on chucking. This contributed significantly to Muhlitheran’s absurd 700 plus test wickets at 24. This enabled brown skinned teams to cheat victories. The feeling they did it was to counter tall white pace but I think it was racist. Under Richardson leadership we have seen ten test bowlers a year banned for chucking as he cleans them all out. India’s Harbijan Singh should have been banned but powerhouse India, England and Australia have yet to have any bowlers banned for chucking.
Imdb.com – 7.9/10.0 (72 votes)
Rottentomatos.com –50 % critic’s approval
Metacriitc.com – % critic’s approval
Leonard Maltin Film Year Book –
The Times –‘ Death of a Gentleman is a spirited sports documentary that will blow the minds of hardcore cricket enthusiasts but numb the bums of the uninitiated’.
Timeout –‘This heartfelt doc about cronyism and racketeering in the world of cricket feels particularly timely’.
The Guardian –‘The gathering clouds never quite obscure the filmmakers' evident love of the game’.
Wow, it would appear I'm the first person to ever review Sky Sports Xtra...and you have to ask yourself why? Sky Sports is massive. A multi-million pound component of BSkyB, with millions of viewers...yet Sky Sports Xtra is often the forgotten, ugly sister of the station!
Sky Sports Xtra launched in autumn 1998 when Sky Digital first began broadcasting. It was originally developed to broadcast interactive programming and would be simulcast with the other Sky Sports channels to offer the interactive coverage. Of course, as technology has developed, there's been no need for this as the interactive element is now available of Sky Sports 1, 2 and 3, so Sky Sports Xtra is an additional channel with airtime to fill.
So, low and behold, they fill it with 'lesser' sports. Never will you find a Premier League game or England International here...unless perhaps it's netball... Instead what the majority of programming consists of is shows varying between half an hour and two hours of 'highlight' based programmes rather than live footage.
A quick look at the schedule as I type sees a WWE Special (there's nothing wrong with wrestling though in my eye!) looking back at the history of WCW. Then throughout the day there's shows such as 'Powder Adventures' (Snowsports), Aerobics Oz Style (aerobics, but with scantily clad women from Australia), World Series of Poker (again, this isn't live, just a round-up) and a personal favourite of mine - Premier League Years; a trip down memory lane with a two hour show reviewing an entire Premier League year from the past. These are often shown around Xmas/New Year and before the start of a new season.
There will be the occasional bit of live sport on Sky Sports Xtra - for example when it's a Heineken Cup weekend in rugby union, the sheer number of matches means there'll be a need to broadcast a couple of them on Sky Sports Xtra. The same applies to international cricket that's on at the same time as England. England obviously take priority and will tend to sit on Sky Sports 1 or 2, but if two other teams from around the world are playing and Sky have the rights, it may well be found on Sky Sports Xtra.
Now, being called 'Xtra' is a bit silly nowadays as with the sheer technology being available there's nothing 'Xtra' about it, so it will become Sky Sports 4 in January 2010 - something which is long overdue and will make everything look a bit tidier in the TV Guide!
There you have it - those who love their sport will appreciate Sky Sports Xtra for what it's worth. Those who don't, will happily go about their day safe in the knowledge they're not missing much...