Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Movie a journey to ensure test cricket survives

Jarrod Kimber (left) and Sampson Collins. Photo / Supplied
Jarrod Kimber (left) and Sampson Collins. Photo / Supplied

In the battle to save test cricket, one scene stands out.

In 2008, Allen Stanford (then Sir Allen) arrived at Lord's via helicopter and presented the England and Wales Cricket Board with a perspex briefcase of US$20 million for the victor of a one-off match between the Stanford Superstars (effectively the West Indies) and England, to be held at his ground in Antigua.

ECB chairman Giles Clarke welcomed Stanford onto the sacred turf. Grins were shared, palms pressed and sweet nothings whispered under the din of the chopper blades. Twenty20 cricket was the Promised Land ...

Stanford now spends his time in a US penitentiary doing 110 years for fraud; the ECB is trying to stop blushing; and a film, Death Of A Gentleman, is being made on how to ensure the survival of test cricket.

Journalists Sampson Collins and Jarrod Kimber are, among other things, using their film to address the threat of Twenty20 cricket to the game's longest and purest form.

Due for release ahead of next year's Ashes series, the film will be a reminder to treasure what the world has in the five-day game - the "gentleman" of the title.

The self-deprecating Kimber refers to himself and Collins as "Louis Theroux and Michael Moore wannabes, walking around like morons, quite naive, making a lot of mistakes but determined to make the best sports/business documentary we can".

They first teamed up for the 2010-11 Ashes. They worked under the loose premise to "film weird stuff" under the title Two Pricks At The Ashes. Global cricketing website Cricinfo took an interest and has since backed their cricket journalism careers provided they agreed to change their original name to The Chuck Fleetwood-Smiths, a nod to the eccentric Australian spin bowler of the 1930s.

"Sam and I started following tours and everyone was talking about test cricket dying," Kimber says. "We thought 'maybe someone needs to look into this in more depth'.

"We've since discovered it's not dying but badly administered. Bureaucratic nonsense goes out of its way not to promote the game. The people in charge are struggling to run it. Many of them are well-meaning but have no power."

Kimber says his experience suggests power rests with television networks to which the game pitches itself for survival.

"Ticket sales to matches are simply not important any more. They mean nothing; television rights mean everything.

"Then you look at the appalling times test cricket is aired; generally business hours, sometimes over a Monday-Friday work week, when few people can watch.

"The best television hours are 7.30pm-9.30pm so day/night matches need to be considered. Other than the Ashes, test cricket is not sold as the product it can potentially be.

"[Australian T20 league] the Big Bash went after those fans in that key time slot because people still want to watch cricket. Most people still know tests are the most important form of the game but no one is willing to take a punt.

"For instance, the Sri Lanka-West Indies series was cancelled due to the Indian Premier League this year. It is countries like that and New Zealand where test cricket could wane. Please, take a punt before it is too late."

Private investment from cricket followers worldwide has enabled the pair to travel and interview key stakeholders in the cricket powerhouses of India, England and Australia.

Kimber says: "We haven't sold the film yet because we want to control the content so we're not dictated to.

"We've taken inspiration from [the independent film on the West Indies in the 1970s and 1980s] Fire In Babylon. They're close to making it profitable. That is remarkable when you consider how much that archive footage would have cost."

Kimber and Collins interviewed widely. Highlights include chats with ECB chairman Clarke, BCCI president and Chennai Super Kings owner Narayanaswami Srinivasan, Indian great Rahul Dravid and Channel Nine broadcaster Mark Nicholas.

Kimber says this is the first of a cricketing trilogy they'd like to film. Next would be an investigation into match fixing and the third would cover big moments in the modern game that had a world impact - such as Hansie Cronje's demise, the terrorist attack of 2009 and Bob Woolmer's death during the 2007 World Cup.

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 23 Nov 2014 13:16:41 Processing Time: 378ms