By Aiden McLaughlin
‘In India, it’s Bollywood and it’s cricket’
The eight part Netflix series, cleverly released three weeks before the start of this year’s IPL, looks behind the scenes at the tournament’s (joint) most successful franchise.
Coming off their title winning 2017 season, the first episode starts 12 weeks before the 2018 edition, as we start to learn about the owners, players and the tactics for the pending player auction and makeup of the squad; it doesn’t dwell too much on that and instead, we quickly get into the preparation in the nets and then the main tournament action.
Once underway, early results see coach Mahela Jayawardene, captain Rohit Sharma and their team under pressure. This is much more satisfying for the neutral viewer as we see players and staff looking at the issues and seeking solutions to help turn their season around. ‘Communication’ is the key word (too much AND too little depending on your point of view) as they look to turn tight defeats into wins; with the top four making the playoffs after 14 matches, everyone is conscious that a slow start can be hard to claw back.
Sachin Tendulkar is often in view, and despite not having an official role as such, you sense his influence on the overall direction of the franchise – but it is just a sense, as Jayawardene, bowling coach Shane Bond, Sharma and others try to plot the road to success.
From a Kiwi perspective, John Wright, Mitchell McClenaghan and the previously mentioned Bond have their share of screen time (the Hawke’s Bay tourist board will be pleased with the brief name check from McClenaghan). Strength and conditioning coach Paul Chapman makes his mark (watch out for an early exchange with Ishan Kishan) and you get to know a bit more about the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, and their respective roads to the top.
To many of us, the sense of how all-encompassing life as a cricketer is in India, isn’t a surprise, but it’s nicely handled, as the team travel from match to match. Yes, the players are idolised, but if things aren’t going well, the fans aren’t afraid to show their displeasure, whether it’s via social media, or in the streets as they watch the action crowding around someone’s mobile phone.
Overall, this is a very watchable series. With each episode 40 mins long (or slightly less) it’s easy to watch a couple here and there or even whizz through the lot during the course of a long evening. Admittedly you get the feeling that not quite everything is on show, but equally it doesn’t feel overly polished; you get enough insights to chew on.
On a quiet night, give it a go; hopefully you’ll enjoy it and learn a bit too.
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