- Original Air Date: 1/3/2019
- Cast: The Mumbai Indians Team and others
- Series Producers: Simon Barker, Krishnendu Bose and Others
I was a humongous cricket fan growing up. I still have my collection of Sportstar magazines from times when there was no internet and online articles. I remember going through the articles about the Cricket World Cup, the Asia Cup and even the tri-series between countries at that time. These magazines were my only option to re-live these matches that I tried my best to catch live on TV but had no other means to revisit after the telecast was over. I even remember crying a few times when India lost. However, with time, things and feeling about the game changed. Match fixing allegations and some of my favorite players coming in the line of fire for the same was the first time when I questioned the integrity of the game and it became just popcorn entertainment. With the emotions out of the equation, cricket lost its charm and it was only a matter of time before I had moved on. However, that was all about to change very soon.
While Browsing through Netflix last week, I couldn’t help but press the play button on a series that was named Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians. There was something about the series that grabbed my attention for reasons that I was unable to put my fingers on. Hence I watched it again. And again. The more I watched it, the more I loved it. It was only a matter of time before it became a regular watch for me during my lunches and dinners. I kept asking myself what it was about the series that grabbed my attention. Was it the inside story that we get to see here that we are never privy to, was it the sports drama, was it the twists and turns of the team’s journey through the season or was it the stars involved. After a lot of thought, I believe it was a combination of all of it that makes this series one of the most endlessly watchable series of the times. It has some poor scores on IMDB which really made me curious but if you ask me, it is easily one of the best sports series to have come out on Netflix.
Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians chronicles the journey of Mumbai Indians, one of the most popular cricket franchises in the world and a part of the Indian Premier League as they embark on a fresh journey to lay claim to being the winner of the Indian Premier League. They are the defending champions but not exactly the favorites to win the trophy. The series starts with the dramatic auction of players as we see Akash Ambani (owner of MI, son of Mukesh Ambani) and Nita Ambani (owner of MI, wife of Mukesh Ambani) pocket some key players as per their think-tank. The focus then shifts to the training and we get to know the players through their back stories as the story toggles between their practice sessions, selections and laybacks to their personal lives which not only makes us take sides with the players but also gives us a clear idea of what it is at stakes for them in the Games. Once the tournament begins, there is a lot more drama to contend with. I hadn’t seen the 2018 ILP and hence had no idea of what to expect. Thus the series became that much more entertaining for me for obvious reasons. For all those who have seen the series and know exactly which way the wheels would turn, there is still the back story involved with each game to contend with.
I just loved the bits involving Mahela Jayawardene, a celebrated Sri Lankan cricketer and coach of MI and his effort to make the player perform. His one on ones with Kieron Pollard (West Indies), Hardik Pandya (India) and also the owners is entertaining to watch. If that was not enough, just look at his expressions after every defeat. The drama here is no less than a Bollywood film as is so aptly pointed out by Nita Ambani in a key sequence. Some of the layers fade away through the series while some others come into prominence. All of this happens in a very lucid and organic manner. We get the best seats in the house to sit back and have a voyeuristic view of all the key events in the series. I believe this is the first time that something like this has been attempted in India and I have to admit that they have pulled it off with success and élan. This is a very well made series.
This is a series wherein the editors had to work with content that was spread over atleast 2 months. Having edited some shorts myself, I could understand the magnitude of work that these people had at their hands and how much effort must have gone into chopping it all down to 8 episodes of roughly 40 minutes each. I dare say that they could easily put in 2 more episodes which would have given them some extra bandwidth to nail a few more things which unfortunately got left behind but still they completed a herculean task with finesse. A little bit more of cricket action would not have hurt either. But one cannot take anything away from the editors and makers as this was a difficult series to edit because there is so much you don’t want to cut out but you have to. It is very difficult to restrain that impulse.
Cricket Fever Mumbai Indians is the kind of documentary that would not only hook you into its narrative but also has the power to re-kindle your love for the game. Atleast that was the case with me. I loved every episode of it and I found the storytelling to be crisp, effective and done with a lot of heart. The fact that we are made privy to a lot of things that we never had the chance to see before (including a visit to interiors of Antilia) just makes it that much more irresistible. The series has drama, it has heroism and it has its share of tragedy too. One can watch it as a documentary as also like a well-made drama. It scores on both counts. However, it goes beyond saying that one needs to have a semblance of interest for the game, the team or both to enjoy this series in a manner that it is aimed to be enjoyed in. with this year’s IPL commencing from tomorrow; it is the best time to watch this series. Who knows you might just acquire a new favorite in the “Mumbai Indians”.