As the second most played sport in the world cricket has been the source of the biggest scandal so far. Money, power and high attendance figures count for more than its history and recognition as a game.
Virginia Moreno Molina
“Good behaviour, manners and values”, three concepts associated with cricket and the way it is played.
But behind these words and concepts there is the Death of a Gentleman, the real story that is not shown on TV screens.
Over a period of four years Sam Collins has reported and investigated the Premier League scandal in India, the reduction in the number of teams playing in the World Cup, and the takeover of the International Cricket Council (ICC) by Australia, the UK and India, among other topics.
“Cricket is governed by bullying and intimidation, that is how these three countries have consolidated their position”, says Collins. These three hold a monopoly over the game and the decisions of the ICC.
The shorter – and more profitable – version Twenty20 Cricket is what now fills the TV screens, leaving aside the traditional Test Cricket.
However Collins links the decay of the traditional game to corruption, the power of TV networks, and the lack of action by cricket’s governing bodies to promote the co-existence of the two forms.
Director Sam Collins speaks to The Prisma about the impact of his film, the motives that drive the game, and the reasons for the decay of traditional cricket
Why a movie about cricket?
We knew that something was wrong with cricket, something that people couldn’t talk about. So because we care about it we wanted to do something to help.
Why the title of the film?
Cricket is a gentleman’s game because it is supposed to represent certain things.
People associate cricket with purity, and it is supposed to be a metaphor for good behaviour, manners and values. To the outside world there is something honourable about cricket.
Is it still a gentleman’s game?
I am not sure if it ever was! For example, when England and Australia were ruling it with the colonial style back in the early 20th century, it was a game run by ‘gentlemen’ in the social sense, but disregarding all the values they were supposed to stand for. Now it’s slightly different, but as everybody scrapes around for money the game’s three biggest countries just say: “No, we will keep it for ourselves”.
If cricket does die, what would we be losing?
One of the great things about cricket is that everybody plays in a different way. As a sport it has always been an expression of different peoples’ personalities. Increasingly that is under threat.
What is happening is that cricket doesn’t have enough investment in the small countries and they are not giving the opportunities to compete in global events. Cricket is shrinking towards its dominant television market. As a spectator you want variety but is becoming increasingly an Indian game.
The lack of opportunity for other countries to play Test Cricket: is it a way to slowly eliminate the game?
Absolutely, because when something is shrinking it is dying. If you don’t look to expand beyond your existing audience then what happens when the existing audience dies off? And what will happen with cricket is the market will win, cricket will go to India.
What is killing this sport?
Money. Cricket is the second biggest sport in the world, almost entirely because India is so keen on it.
80% of cricket’s money comes from the Indian market, 1.3 billion people. That means that all the television money is based around that.
So it is a difficult diplomatic situation, where India is the dominant financial market and consequently they want to be the dominant force in running the game.
There is a new shorter, sexier Twenty20 format that has brought huge amounts of money to the game, and the administrators are prioritising the short-term money of Twenty20 over the values of Test cricket.
Increasingly every decision made in the running of the game seems to be about maximising profits for its three richest countries.
The worry is the fact that if all the decisions are made because of money, and because of the appalling governance structures in place, then they are being made without transparency or accountability.
Then it will kill cricket in the rest of the world.
Cricket is now a multi-billion dollar sport loved by a billion people, run by individuals who have proved they cannot be trusted to represent the best interests of the sport.
The head of the whole game, for example, has been named in the report for a spot-fixing investigation by the Indian Supreme Court, and had a direct financial interest in the Indian Twenty20 tournament the IPL.
The other countries are scared of India…
Cricket is run by bullying and intimidation, that’s what these three countries – India, England and Australia – have done to entrench their position. And somehow, no one is taking issue with this. People just absolutely accept that this is going to continue.
Do the players care about what is happening to Test Cricket?
The players want to play in front of big crowds and make a lot of money. And definitely they want to play Test Cricket but they want to be paid for playing it. They are being put in this impossible position by their boards. These boards are not promoting Test cricket, they are not giving it the best chance of survival.
How does this game contribute to the development of the societies where it is played?
Every village in England has a cricket team that is central to the local community. In the villages, away from the cities, or in India or Australia, sport is what brings people together: when they finish work they come together to play cricket. And that’s what cricket is, it is what you turn to get away from real life. And that’s why we need to fight to preserve it.
What were your main problems during the filming?
It took us four years. To be honest, for three years we didn’t have the story. We knew we were making a film about a problem but the problem hadn’t happened yet.
But then, the really bad stuff happened and we were able to get it on camera.
When you are making a film about people doing something wrong, and they realise what are you doing, then they don’t like it very much.
They don’t like to be questioned and they try to make things difficult for you. Jarrod had a lot of difficulties, they temporary take his accreditation, Giles Clarke made an allegation that he racially abused a ICC employee…
The decline of Test Cricket: is this inevitable?
I don’t think it is inevitable. Test Cricket is incredible because it is 140 years old, and has the amazing ability to continue and to adapt over this time.
But the people in charge need to help it survive. The game needs to be regulated to give it the best chances to survival. It needs to find the way to balance bringing in the maximum money, connecting with a younger audience and also preserving what makes the game unique.
Another point in the film is that cricket should be universal. And after all this it is up to the fans. We should always understand what is happening to the game we love, what the people who represent us are doing, and keep an eye on them.
What was the response of the film?
It has been amazing. Everybody understands there is a problem, but the people in charge are hoping that this goes away.
We are trying to change the public view to attract the attention until they stand up. And make that is impossible for the administrators to ignore this issue.
What is the #changecricket campaign?
We want independent governance for cricket. We know it is not a cure-all, but it is the best hope the game has, to have people that are not making decisions for themselves, but making decisions for the benefit of cricket.
We want the governments of these countries to get involved – there are some very interesting lines about private bodies or public bodies.
Do they represent their countries or their private companies? In which case they shouldn’t get government funding, they shouldn’t be allow to call themselves England, India or Australia.
What makes cricket so special?
Is something that brings people together, it is the only sport that is not only just about winning. It is an expression of humanity.
(Introduction translated by Graham Douglas – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)