So over the Xmas holidays I finally watched Death of a Gentleman, the documentary looking into the demise of test cricket. Here is a short of review.
First off it feels like it was a little late in coming out. It felt as if it should have happened more quickly but financial constraints held it back and so, to a certain extent, the ultimate findings of the film were kind of... after the horse has bolted. Lord Woolf’s report, whilst providing a perfect independent corroboration of the alleged woes of cricket governance, also probably took the wind out of the sails of DOAG. No shame to the makers, Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins, here. I guess its tough to get this kind of thing made.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Cricket Australia (CA) have sown up the game to suit themselves and ring fence money in a way that is detrimental to the global game of cricket. As in so much sport, the governance is woefully short of what one would hope. As is hammered home by DOAG, it is mind-numbingly astonishing that the ICC seemingly has no interest in widening the game of cricket but only in directing an increasingly large portion of the pie towards the ECB, BCCI and CA. The film appears to demonstrate these three countries, which hold all the power, also tend to agree things amongst themselves behind the scenes. I am sure Sepp Blatter would fit right in.
Of the principal baddies Giles Clarke comes across as a deeply unpleasant man. N. Srinivasan a bully, utterly unflustered by the massive conflict of interests he has at the head of the ICC, BCCI and India Cements (IPL team owner). Wally Edwards is… well, who knows, he never even deigned to speak to the makers of DOAG. The mission of the ICC, as stated on their web site is:
"A bigger, better, global game targeting more players, more fans, more competitive teams."
But these men serve the interests of their nations, of this there is no doubt. Sports governance has to be more than this, it has to look to widen the game, support up and coming nations and make the game more accessible for all. Over 60% of funding to India, England and Australia and a reduced (10 nation) World cup suggests we are heading rapidly in the wrong direction.
From time to time Ed Cowan crops up as a motif for test cricket - specifically how hard it is to succeed in the toughest form of the game (and indeed it should be). Cowan is a sympathetic figure, perhaps a man slightly out of time, but one nevertheless who in my view comes out of the film with a huge amount of integrity. Having said this I am not sure how his story fits in exactly with the narrative of corruption and self-serving of the big three. I was left feeling that his story in the film was not so much that he did not cut it at the highest level but that he was wilfully, and to a degree maliciously, pitted against the likes of David Warner in order to expose his alleged anachronistic style of batting in a world conditioned to expect T20-style fireworks in all formats of the game. I am not sure that this was the intention.
But what is the over-riding message of DOAG? There is no future for test cricket without a wider country base? T20 is destroying test cricket because it attracts the best players away from test cricket with high financial rewards? T20 has changed the midst of audiences to require more exciting players to the detriment of the longer form of the game? The shorter an longer formats must be scheduled to sit alongside each other? The only games played soon will be between England, Australia and India? Minor nations may soon stop playing any meaningful international cricket altogether? Corruption is rife and there is no policeman to control it at the highest levels?
Perhaps it is all of these things, although there would have to be huge compromises to achieve a balance. Only two tests against New Zealand last summer goes to show that there is precious little desire to strike balance in England. It is all about the Ashes and the money it brings, which will ultimately be to the detriment of the Ashes. Or should we call it the Cashes now?
What is cricket without test cricket?
It certainly feels as if Kimber and Collins decided to make a documentary about the thing they love without a clear scope. To this end there is a lack of direction, understandable given the fact that the film pivots at some point as they realise how corrupt and self-serving the powerhouses of international cricket are.
Whatever the messages (timely or otherwise) to come out of DOAG, I am depressed. The sport I love does feel as if it is flying fast and shining brightly, but will burn up on re-entry. As the the film states; what is cricket without test cricket? T20 needs to be shorter and faster than something.
And I am glad these journalists found a way to make this film.