One man's list of the best cricket movies

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
8:31
AM ET
"Nothing but baseball. You know, we used to call it rounders. Children
play it with a rubber ball and a stick. Not a word about cricket. Americans
have no sense of proportion."
-- "The Lady Vanishes"

From "Bull Durham" to "Rocky" to "Hoosiers," we are a country passionate for sports films. Even for sports such as billiards and running, there's a film synonymous with it. Think "The Hustler" and "Chariots of Fire." But what about cricket flicks? Well-known directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Anderson and Rob Reiner have all shown a topsy-turvy fascination with the sport in selective scenes in their work, but where are all the cinematic masterpieces set directly in cricket to be found?

With the ICC World Twenty20 heading into its last stretch, I felt it was an opportune time to give you my list of favorite cricket movies. From Bollywood romantic comedies to fascinating documentaries to a slasher flick with a deranged serial cricket killer, you're covered here. (Editor's note: Some trailers contain mature content and language.)

'Lagaan'


Might as well start with the "Citizen Kane" and "Gone with the Wind" of cricket movies. "Lagaan" is a titanic Bollywood bonanza of 225 exhilarating minutes of song and dance set during the British Raj. Amir Khan, India's George Clooney, stars as the leader of a motley crew of villagers who take on a corrupt British officer in a game of cricket in order to save their village from an absurd tax. The movie was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2001 and features the music of A.R. Rahman, who composed the soundtrack of "Slumdog Millionaire." "Lagaan" is a thaali of drama and comedy, razzmatazz and romance that creates an irresistible big-screen epic that will shake up your favorites list.

'Iqbal'


A combination of "Radio" meets "The Karate Kid," "Iqbal" is the story of a deaf and mute young man who, much to his father's chagrin, loves to bowl wickets instead of cutting crops. But with the help of a persistent little sister and a dipsomaniac former cricket captain (played by the always impeccable Naseeruddin Shah), Iqbal tries to fulfill his dreams of playing for the national team.

'Victory'


One of the most authentic and expensive cricket movies ever made, "Victory" stars a who's who in professional and world cricket, ranging from Australian bowler Brett Lee to Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara to some 30-plus other players. The story follows Vijay Shekhawat, played by the enigmatic Harman Baweja, as he reaches the highest levels of cricket stardom, only to lose everything because of his greed. Definitely has echoes of the "Goal!" film trilogy. The movie flopped at the box office.

'Dil Bole Hadippa!'


No sports movie list is complete without a cross-dressing, gender-bending plot line. "Dil Bole Hadippa!" stars Rani Mukherjee, the lovely, raspy-voiced Bollywood actress, as a Punjabi girl who dresses like a Sikh man in order to join the all-guys cricket team. There's the typical romantic subplot of the captain of the team falling in love with her, and the discovering of her real identity, but "Dil Bole Hadippa!" does it in a plucky, Balle Balle manner that makes you overlook the fairly obvious similarities to "She's the Man."

'Wondrous Oblivion'


A period piece set in 1960s England with a touching coming-of-age storyline about an 11-year-old boy who obsesses over cricket and the friendship he forms with the Jamaican family that moves next door (the father is played by the fantastic Delroy Lindo). The movie is a sharp commentary about race but is told with tenderness and humor.

'Chain Kulii Ki Main Kulii'


The borrowing or plagiarizing of plots from Hollywood movies is always a polarizing subject, but Bollywood is a juggernaut all its own. "Chain Kulii Ki Main Kulii" totally rips off the thematic device of "Like Mike." Instead of a pair of shoes, it's a magical bat once used by cricket legend Kapil Dev in the 1983 World Cup, when India won it all, that falls into the hands of an orphan named Karan. The boy develops an amazing batting talent and is recruited to play for the Indian team. But a school bully has other thoughts. The movie then resembles "Rookie of the Year." But you know what? It works.

'Say Salaam India'


An unorthodox coach, a collective of rag-tag kids ... your perfect formula for an underdog story. Sanjay Suri plays a cricket coach who gets fired by an arrogant school board from his job coaching a bunch of prima donna players. He finds another school and molds members of the wrestling team into a cricketing force. A nice blend of "Coach Carter" and "The Mighty Ducks" with a peppering of masala.

'I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer'


This is pure awesomeness. Just read the description: "A cricket team are dismissed by a moustachioed serial killer with a razor sharp cricket glove and an arsenal of sharpened stumps. One by one the killer exacts revenge for the torment he endured 20 years earlier. Campy, vulgar, violent, gratuitous ... you'll love every moment of this low-budget slasherfest with a wicket sense of fun.

Documentaries


'Out of the Ashes'


Executive produced by Sam Mendes, "Out of the Ashes" tells the amazing story of the Afghanistan cricket team and its two-year journey to qualify for the 2011 ICC World Cup. From a war-torn land to the crisp fields of play, this documentary chronicles the stories of the men who used sport to change their lives and tell their country's stories.

'Fire in Babylon'


During the 1070s and '80s, the West Indies cricket team known as the Calypso Cricketers shook up the world with their new style and flair for the game. They became the best in the sport, intimidating and brash. This documentary flashes the light on the new breed of cricketer, like Viv Richards and Michael Holding, who sparked fear in opponents from South Africa to England. Done to an amazing reggae soundtrack, "Fire in Babylon" might be one of the best sports documentaries made.
• Emmy-nominated and award-winning writer and television producer
• Work has appeared in Slam, The Wall Street Journal, Cricinfo, Sports Illustrated For Kids and The Orlando Sentinel
• Produced for SportsCenter, The Best Damn Sports Show Period and several other TV shows

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