Cricket Fever Mumbai Indians executive producers: Al Edgington and Joe Labracio
Cricket Fever Mumbai Indians rating: Three and a half stars
What are the lengths that an average Indian cricket fan will tread to be part of the celebrations in the dressing room after a well fought win of their favourite team? Or to ride along in the team bus? Maybe to get to know first hand which car does Rohit Sharma drive? Or what hair products does Hardik Pandya use? The afterlife, or the life of the cricket players of India, beyond the field has always been in the shadows. And that’s what makes Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians, an eight-part documentary, currently streaming on Netflix, worth a watch.
A first of its kind, it takes us through the highs and lows of one of the richest teams of the Indian Premier League, owned by Mukesh and Nita Ambani (Reliance Industries), through the 2018 season. It’s quite an interesting season to shoot the documentary — as that was the season that MI failed to even make it to final four — they were the incumbent favourites, having won the tournament in 2017.
The series begins with Akash Ambani taking charge. It’s kind of funny to see the young Ambani assert himself in front of Mahila Jayawardene, Shane Bond, John Wright and Robin Singh-an impressive gathering, who have all handled pressures and demands on a scale much larger than an impending IPL auction. "Another aspect that I want to talk about is secrecy in this room. Every single person knows that Mumbai Indians is the most successful franchise in IPL history. Even a sniff out, will start a whole story. I will have zero tolerance to anything when it comes to something like this," states Ambani.
The series traverses through the initial auction, and how eventually MI have a working team in place to train and hone. This team has a healthy mix of new and old blood, experience and energy.
Chronologically we delve deep into the practice sessions, training schedules, gruelling diets and the need for constant hard work and discipline. Sports nutrition and physiotherapy too get their due airtime. Each episode sees the personal and humane side of the cricketers. We see a teary-eyed mother of Jaspreet Bumrah, as she recalls the days of struggle and abject poverty as her son was growing up. We also get a view into the shared bedroom of brothers Krunal and Hardik Pandya-and a dog-eared scrapbook-where the duo have assembled newspaper cuttings about themselves through the years. We also see Ishan Kishan favouring a bit of concealer, as he readies himself for the team photo shoot. And yes, Hardik Pandya’s penchant for hairstyles comes out-he doesn’t even use tap water on his face and hair, we are told.
Cricket Fever, follows the wins and losses of this giant team, with so much riding on their shoulders-expectations of fans, money and demands of the sponsors and owners. The dejection of the team and the defeated mood is quite palpable when they lose their first three matches of the season. The dressing room is a gloomy place. "Losing is contagious," Sachin Tendulkar, former MI player and mentor to the team is heard saying. The players are huddled over their cellphones and avoiding eye contact. This is a rare insight into the minds and workings of the players-which the average fan misses out on. While angry and disgruntled, they go home and resume their normal lives, but the players carry the loss in their head and heart, and that comes out in a heart-wrenching manner in the series.
Cricket Fever has humanised the Mumbai Indians, in a never-seen-before manner. We see them laughing, crying, dejected and being human through all this. Rohit Sharma, the captain of the team, says, " I have got so many opinions, so many people yapping in my ears. What do I take from that." We also get a rare no-holds-barred view of Antilia, as the venue for a bonding session-replete with a scavenger hunt and a virtual reality ride. This is something even Architectural Digest has not had access to.
A special shout out to the cricket fan of Mumbai-they are a rare species. They are the second most important character of the series–the first of course is the team. We see people hooked onto their cellphones, outside television shops, with painted faces and sporting team T-Shirts–all resident experts on the game and the players.
Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians is streaming on Netflix