You believe that for Indians, cricket is a religion. But reality, where players make millions just for a few games and are ‘owned’ and ‘sold’ by the rich and famous, is different.
In such times, it is impossible to imagine that cricket could be a metaphor against racism and a clarion call for rebellion against injustice in the world. It indeed was, for the West Indies team in the late 1970s that inspired the black world with a call for unity against apartheid.
“Fire In Babylon” is the documented true story of those most inspiring times for world cricket and of the greatest cricket team in history.
It’s 1975 and the West Indies cricket team comprising of players from small countries like Trinidad, Tobago, Jamaica etc., are on a Test cricket tour of Australia. They are not only defeated by the Australian team, but are physically ravaged by the tremendous bouncers of Dennis Lillie and Jeff Thomson.
To add insult to injury, the team, belonging to countries that have only recently been free of their white colonial masters, are heaped abuses like “black bastards”.
The quiet, reticent captain Clive Lloyd decides he has had enough and sets out in search of players who could bowl as fast as the Australians. His discovery of four pacers, and the pride that it instilled among the West Indians, not only changed the game of cricket forever and ensured that the West Indian team remained undefeated for 15 years, but also unified the islands of the West Indies into one cohesive whole while sending out an anti-apartheid message to the world.
As black people were being beaten on the streets of a white world, a black cricket team was beating the whites on the cricket field, in a game that was invented by the whites. If you liked the Oscar nominated film “Lagaan”, here’s a real life replaying of the film.
Like one cricketer in the film says, “For the first time in the world, blacks were champions at something”.
It is a folly to look at “Fire In Babylon” only as a cricket film. It is a film about a group of nation full of black people in a world where racism was still alive and kicking evident in the apartheid of South Africa, race riots in England and civil unrest in the Carribbean, who staked claim to being the best in the world and stayed the best for a long time.
It is the story of an era, and a game, that, in its own right, set the stage for making the world a place with much more equality and honesty than it was before.
“You fight, I’m gonna fight. We had a mission and a mission that we believed in ourselves and we believed that we were just as good as anyone. Equal for that matter,” says Viv Richards, one of the greatest cricketers of all times, philosophically at the beginning of the film. This sets the stage for a film that is as riveting as it is awe-inspiring.
It is the perfect film for the times where the game of cricket has become a means of money for the players, and entertainment for viewers. Cricket was more, and indeed, in a nation like India, even today, can be more than just a dumb game played by a bunch of rich, selfish players.