When cricket journalists Sam Collins and Jarrod Kimber started making this film four years ago, they did not set out to find a scandal in cricket. They set out to investigate ‘merely’ why a popular shorter version of the game, Twenty20, was attracting far more money, far more broadcasting deals and far more fans than their beloved Test cricket. But that narrative soon changed.
I must confess, I watched the documentary Death of a Gentleman with about as much knowledge of cricket as I have of, say, astrophysics or biochemistry. Aside from a pleasant background noise now and again while I am pottering in the kitchen, the rules of the sport mean nothing to me. What I do know, however, is that cricket is a game with a sense of honour, both for the losers as well as the winners. It has standards, and both fans and players respect these.
Not expecting too much of the film I realised that soon after I started watching, I got sucked in. This wasn’t because I was distraught by the thought that Test cricket might disappear from our television screens, in fact, personally, the thought of a five day game never appealed to me whatsoever in the first place. What got me was the story that was rapidly unravelling as Collins and Kimber started to interview the big bananas at the top of the sport.
As the filmmakers and their subjects reveal, cricket appears to have a much bigger problem than the two journalists, or anyone for that matter, thought it had. And the worst revelation is that the threat comes from within its own governing body, the International Cricket Council.
Twisted financial interests, skewed morals, and no respect for those who play and love the game, that is why, according to the filmmakers, traditional cricket countries such as the West Indies and Pakistan will soon become irrelevant players and the game will lose its backbone of traditional values.
Told with passion and through interviews with those who love the sport – including the Australian batsman Ed Cowan – Collins and Kimber show that cricket is a game that can bring people together, that should have a heart, and they make a strong case for it to be saved.
However, if anything, this documentary also shows that despite all the goodness that cricket has to offer, money talks, even when the sport is supposed to be that of gentlemen.