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Ella Scott Lynch
The Ashes is the pinnacle of world cricket with two old enemies, Australia and England, going head to head. This series is the story of World Series Cricket and its creator, Australian media mogul Kerry Packer, who signed up the world's greatest players and set up a parallel cricket competition. The Australian cricket team, visiting England in 1977 for the Ashes series, fields a team full of legends. Cricket is undergoing a revolution and the cricket establishment will be brought to its knees. Written by
I'm a big cricket fan and my love for the game commenced in the early 70's just before the time-line of this dramatisation of the difficult birth of Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket venture, who sought to weaken the autocratic powers of the National Cricket Boards of the day and share more of the profits with the actual players themselves. Naturally, I'm sure that Packer was also in it for the bucks himself, although in this rather one-sided production, outside of his frequent volcanic temper eruptions, he's portrayed in almost a patrician light, bonding with his players, sympathising with the fans and above all loving the game itself.
To give full vent to his megalomaniac side, the perfect Australian loudmouth stereotype, two characters are invented pretty much for Packer to scream at and humiliate, firstly a put-upon secretary and the second a hard-pressed finance director, both of whom he almost breaks but who both show loyalty above and beyond the call of duty (although heaven only knows why) sticking with him until finally WSC takes off.
The producers did a reasonably good job selecting actors who looked like their well-known sporting counterparts apart from the guy who looked so unlike svelte commentator Richie Benaud that every scene he was in he was called by name so you knew who you were watching. Loche Muir in the title role gives a powerhouse performance counterbalanced by Abe Forsythe as his quieter baby-faced partner, comedian Paul Hogan's sidekick while the actors playing the aforementioned P.A. Rosie and Finance Director Dave also perform well.
The cricket match recreations are as good as could be expected, not great in other words and woven not exactly seamlessly into the real sporting action used as an occasional backdrop, but the sport itself is only the background to Packer's struggle against the establishment, which despite the man at times coming across as one of the most obnoxious people imaginable, you still end up wanting him to win through.
Packer really was responsible for seismic changes in cricket, even if not all the ideas were his in the first place. These included country-coded coloured outfits for the players (the salmon pink West Indies rig-out didn't last long!), day-night cricket, the importance of one-day cricket, multi-camera angles (ensuring the action was always front-on) and many others. From it we can see the genesis of the IPL, the Cricket World Cup, power-plays and many more innovations almost taken for granted nowadays. Above all else he made cricket into the multi-million pound sport it is today.
This big-boned drama on his life and times might offend some but I was thoroughly entertained right down to the last wicket.
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