Edward Craig reviews
The 2010-11 Ashes Series Complete Collection
Lace, 7-disc DVD box-set, 660 mins
Who would not want to watch it all over again? But a documentary which aims to get under the skin of England’s Ashes victory does not quite deliver
MUCH LIKE the Australian side in the series itself the documentary The Inside Story feels as if it should have been a bit better. It is the sixth of seven DVDs in The 2010-11 Ashes Series Complete Collection box-set that includes highlights from each Test. It is the add-on that tries to turn these DVDs from great souvenir to thing of beauty.
Any Ashes-winning documentary is going to struggle in comparison with 2005’s Hidden Ashes – a 90-minute analysis and dissection using the best of unseen footage to add to what was already the most dramatic of scripts. The Inside Story has plenty of off-field footage: players at press conferences, at training or walking through airports (a lot of this). All attempts to get under the skin that do not quite come off.
It has its moments. When there is media gossip of a Shane Warne comeback Richie Benaud is asked for a response: “The really annoying thing is that no one has asked me for a comeback.” Mike Selvey offers thoughtful observations and Mark Nicholas’ hyperbole complements the high-octane moments. From time to time the stump mics are turned up so you can hear the players talking, sledging, encouraging: Strauss explains to his troops in the huddle, like an officer in The Great Escape, how to bowl Australia out on an Adelaide featherbed; Brad Haddin helps Jonathan Trott with his pre-shot ritual, sliding his boot down Trott’s mark in the crease; Ricky Ponting’s desperation when asking for that referral.
All these details add to the story but it is a story told too much by commentators and players, too little by basic footage. Mark Taylor, Michael Slater and the two captains are all very interesting in their own ways but after 40 minutes of Tubby you want to see the actual cricket. Instead there is more talking, more dramatic, ultra slow-motion footage – no sense of the flow of the games, just the big moments, coloured in and blasted out like the trailer to a summer blockbuster.
This is an official Cricket Australia DVD, a good and a bad thing. All the commentary, including the highlights discs, is Australian – and fantastic. Taylor explodes when Peter Siddle takes his hat-trick at Brisbane and when Collingwood catches Ponting at Perth. It is worth the entry fee alone. But there is an Australian bent to it, a bias that massages the mauling. It glosses over Australian shortcomings, blaming anything from technology, flat pitches and English luck, if not cheating. Nicholas and Selvey bring balance but it will still prang English ears.
There is one thing you cannot take away from the documentary: England won – and won brilliantly. For this alone it should be on every England fan’s playlist.
Edward Craig is deputy/digital editor of The Wisden Cricketer
The two elements that make up this box-set – The Official Highlights and The Inside Story – are available to buy individually, at £29.99 and £24.99 respectively.