Almanac Film Review: Death of a Gentleman

by Shannon Gill

 

In they came, the defenders of the universe, 30-something and beardy, 50-odd and grey. Overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly white, most likely all middle-class. Saviour of Test cricket was on their minds, as they came to the Melbourne premiere of ‘Death of A Gentleman’

‘Death of a Gentlemen’ is a film made by two youngish cricket writers who started as bloggers and developed into bona fide online cricket journos, Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber. That’s the trajectory of the film too, two upstarts with half an idea and a ‘why-not’ attitude, making it up as they go along. But the film turns out much better than that sounds as they take a broad brush to the future of Test cricket.

As post-film panelist Gideon Haigh summarised, it’s a film that’s looking for an answer but ends up being more about searching for a question. So the criticism of a film will be just that, it’s a bit rambling, it’s a bit long, it’s a bit unfocssed, it goes around in circles a little…come to think of it it’s a bit like Test cricket. However it’s utterly engrossing for cricket fans whether you know the background behind world cricket politicking or not.

If you were just a sports fan you might need half an hour shaved off, and that’s symbolic for all sorts of reasons as the film essentially deals with the rise of T20 cricket and its effect on Test cricket with all the machinations of power in boardrooms that sit behind it.

Conspiracy theorists will love it too, it does a good job of explaining the web of hands that feed in the international cricket world; things that make non-Indian cricket administrators shiver in the night.

There are some telling passages through the film, one featuring the supposed poster boy for all the ills of the cricket world, Chris Gayle. Away from Instagram Gayle sounds a lot more sincere when he talks about the realities of getting a $1000 for an international as opposed to $800,000 for an IPL stint, never mind the internal bickering that plagues his nation(s). It cuts to a packed Indian stadium where Gayle hits sixes to a heaving and delirious crowd with all the bells and whistles, we all see the overseas Test non-crowds on TV and perhaps we can understand the attraction.

Giles Clarke, the former chairman of the ECB, takes the villain role with an unintentionally hilariously pompous display. In fact it’s the most entertaining documentary appearance by an Englishman since the Gallagher brothers owned the BritPop documentary ‘Live Forever’. Sadly the Gallagher’s are meant to be ridiculous rock stars, Giles was the head custodian of the game in it birthplace.

His labeling of the Stanford debacle as something that English cricket didn’t suffer from, and waving away the effect it had on West Indies cricket as ‘their problem’ may well sum up the message of the film. In Australia we’ve likely been spoilt by centralised sports administration dealing for the greater good instead of self-interest over the last 25 years along the lines of American models. The film deals with cricket’s power base unwilling to give up that kind control, and confirms the ICC as the toothless tiger. As Haigh pointed out, it’s not that cricket doesn’t know that an independent and somewhat socialist model is not the best for running sport as the Woolf recommendations suggested, because it’s done exactly that with its various T20 leagues. So there’s another motive that doesn’t take too much thinking to work out, but the film does a good job of making that clear.

Watching the film last night in the middle of the BBL season that is engaging all sorts of great TV and crowd numbers you can’t help but feel Collins, Kimber and everyone else in the theatre is fighting a losing battle – everywhere you look market forces are telling us that. And it’s not a bad thing that more people are watching the sport is it?

The film attracts an all-star cast of past and present players to speak and they speak almost unanimously in favour of the long-form. So the more you think about it, the more you realise any seismic shift back to Test cricket sanctity and balance in the brave new world needs to be player-driven. Whether the players are up for that sacrifice is another thing. The nobility and spirit of cricket jargon might also need to be dropped, it can obfuscate the real issues and play into the hands of the dinosaur argument used against test traditionalists.

 

For over 100 years it was the establishment who fought tooth and nail for the status quo as radicals took shots from the outside to modernise cricket in different ways. Now it’s the radicals like Collins and Kimber who are taking on the establishment to preserve a status quo and they had a small army who looked a lot like the establishment turn up to watch the film last night. Strange days indeed.

Comments

  1. is this movie about test cricket? still i didn’t watch it but i like to watch. thanks for the article

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