Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India
Arguably the greatest film about cricket ever made, Ashutosh Gowariker's Oscar-nominated true-life tale has Aamir Khan in his star-making role of Bhuvan, the villager that stands up to the British land owners when they threaten to raise the already crippling land tax (the 'lagaan' of the title). Bhuvan takes them on at their own game, literally, when he agrees to a cricket match to settle the dispute.
(Sri Lanka, 2012)
Adapted from the hugely successful 2007 Tamil comedy Chennai 600028, television veteran Udara Palliyaguruge's directing debut features a dozen sexy young stars (Roshan Ranawana, Hemal Ranasinghe, Aruni Rajapakse) whose individual stories are linked by a shared passion for the six-a-side version of the game. Utilising stunning locations and vast match-day recreations, it's the most expensive film to date from the Sri Lankan industry.
Hit for Six
From the rarely-glimpsed film industry of the West Indies comes Alison Saunders-Franklyn's familial drama Hit for Six, a redemptive story set against the scourge of international cricket: match-fixing. Andrew Pilgrim plays Alex Nelson, a talented player who falls foul of the administrators when accusations of corrupt play surface. (Some conjecture suggested the character was based on superstar batsman Brian Lara's run of poor form.) Worse, though, is the shame he faces when confronted by his father, Colin (Brit import Rudolph Walker). Hit for Six features national heroes such as Wes Hall, Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge in crowd-pleasing cameos.
The Final Test
This much-loved father-and-son story stars Jack Warner as ageing English cricketer Sam Palmer, who is distraught when his son Reggie (Ray Jackson) shows far more interest in meeting his favourite author Alexander Whitehead (Robert Morley) than watching his dad's last innings. Whitehead, however, is himself a cricket tragic and won't miss the day's play. A sporting tearjerker of the highest calibre, Anthony Asquith's film (based on Terrence Rattigan's script) features such renowned real-life cricketers of the period as Denis Compton, Len Hutton, Alec Bedser and Cyril Washbrook.
Hansie: A True Story
(South Africa, 2008)
One of the most tragic downfalls in international cricket is chronicled in Regardt van den Bergh's account of the match-fixing scandal and fatal accident that made a pitiful spectacle of the once-great South African cricket captain, Hansie Cronje. Its rose-coloured glasses approach to the man's struggle largely kept it from travelling beyond his homeland (it was produced and co-written by Hansie's brother, Frans), but Frank Rautenbach's performance captures the inner turmoil felt by a man caught betraying his nation for cash.
Fire in Babylon
Few sporting sides have so fully represented the pinnacle of their chosen sport as The West Indies cricket team of the mid 1970s/early '80s. The fearsome physicality of pacemen Michael Holding, Andy Roberts and Joel Garner and the immovable techniques of batsmen Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharran and the legendary Viv Richards inspired a nation. Stevan Riley's documentary charts the dominance of this great side with archival footage and recollections from fellow greats of the era.
Having to face down the might of Australia's pace attack in the 2007 World Cup was of little concern to the motley crew of farmers, salesmen, teachers and the odd ne'er-do-well that made up Ireland's cricketing 'elite'. Directors Paul Davey and Shimmy Marcus profile a group of men from a fractured country as they unite to play cricket in a far-away land. Not even a murder investigation nor the socio-political reunification of their land will keep these lads from their goal: securing Ireland's first win in international cricket.
Trobriand Cricket: An Ingenious Response to Colonialism
Co-directors Gary Kildea and Jerry Leach capture extraordinary footage of tribal men from the Papuan islands of Trobriand adapting the rules and techniques of cricket introduced to them by English colonisers into a game of intense physicality, pace and cultural celebration. This landmark anthropological record is considered a classic of the documentary genre.
Cricket and The Meaning of Life
Although their fledgling cricket culture sees them referred to in the game's terms as 'minnows', Canada has, at the very least, captured the feverish religion of the sport in this aptly-titled 2005 documentary. Directed by ex-pat Indian Sanjay Talreja, the film portrays the culturally-defining importance of cricket in the colonies established by Britain and how taking the title from the motherland in test-match contests echoes with deep national pride.
Watch the full film here.
Out of the Ashes
Given the chance to unite under their nation's flag, a group of Afghan men set about forming a cricket team skilled enough to take on the giants of the game by qualifying for the 2011 ICC World Cup. Under the guidance of executive producer Sam Mendes, directors Tim Albone and Lucy Martens craft an uplifting story of a resource-free but richly-spirited team of impassioned players and the coach who guides them.
Undeniably cornball but impossible not to love, Nagesh Kukunoor's blockbuster Iqbal tells the story of a young deaf mute (played with conviction by the wonderful Shreyas Talpade) who yearns to play cricket for the national team. Featuring Bollywood great Naseeruddin Shah as the team coach, this manipulative tearjerker spins the underdog sports film clichés like Warnie's 'Ball of the Century' but audiences lapped it up.
I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer
Finally, carrying the drinks as 'Twelfth Man' for Test Cricket's World XI is this Australian oddity. Doug Turner and Stacey Edmond's slasher-comedy has a cricket team stalked by a razor-gloved killer brandishing sharpened cricket stumps.