Documentaries look at the serious side to news events and there are some brilliant programmes covering cricket. Here are the best of them.
20 Cricket Documentaries Worth Watching
1. The Man Who Bought Cricket (2022)
One of the newest releases on this list, The Man Who Bought Cricket tells the extraordinary story of Allen Stanford. He was the man who put up a cool $20 million USD in prize money for a single cricket game but, in reality, it was all a sham.
Stanford was, as far as the outside world was concerned, an extremely successful businessman who simply wanted to inject life back into West Indian cricket. However, his ‘success’ was built on Ponzi schemes for which he was later sent to prison.
So how did he get involved with cricket? I don’t want to spoil the programme for you too much and this is comprehensively dealt with in the documentary. He was certainly an enthusiast for the game and, having relocated his business to Antigua, that interest began to grow.
As for the 20 million dollar match, this was a one-off T20 game between a touring English side and a group of West Indian players who would collectively be known as the Stanford Superstars. The game itself was a flat affair, won easily by the home side but that was just part of the story.
Featuring cameos by England players including Luke Wright and Stuart Broad, it’s a compelling tale and it makes you wonder how cricket ever got caught up in this scandal.
2. The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team (2020)
Following the fallout from that disastrous 2018 series with South Africa, there were a number of changes within the Australian cricketing set up. Captain Steve Smith was replaced by Tim Paine while new coach Justin Langer came in to take over from Darren Lehmann.
This 2020 documentary follows the Australian team as they look to rebuild their reputation on the world stage. Both Langer and Paine agreed to the fly on the wall series which is something of a monster with its eight episodes.
There is access to the Aussie dressing room and it’s fair to say that it’s a gritty take on life as an international cricketer. Langer in particular is a strong presence who is frank and honest with his players while looking to keep his team from repeating the mistakes they made back in 2018.
Of all the documentaries listed, I would recommend this one as the best of the ‘fly on the wall’ style programmes.
3. Fire in Babylon (2010)
The West Indies were a fearsome force in cricket and this story tells of their rise to prominence through the 1970s and 1980s.
Prior to the emergence of household names such as Michael Holding and Viv Richards, West Indian cricket was known for its ‘Calypso’ approach – highly entertaining but not necessarily effective. The new crop of players set out to change all that as they looked to dominate the game in both its formats.
Fire in Babylon includes some memorable stock footage as well as interviews with a lot of the key players of the time. It’s great nostalgia for those who remember it and it’s also an important documentary of the rise of West Indian cricket through two decades.
4. 501 Not Out (2019)
If you know your cricket history then you’ll already be aware that this documentary covers the story of Brian Lara. The title refers to Lara’s score of 501 for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994 which is the highest individual total in the history of the game.
The documentary was released in 2019, some 25 years after that huge innings, but it doesn’t just focus on one part of his career. 501 Not Out tells the entire Brian Lara story with the input of friends, family and teammates. It’s fascinating viewing as it uncovers the life of someone who seemed to shy away from the media when he was playing.
5. Roar of the Lion (2019)
Roar of the Lion follows the Chennai Super Kings as they return to the Indian Premier League following a two-year hiatus. CSK were caught up in a spot fixing scandal which saw them removed from the competition for the 2016 and 2017 editions.
Chennai reclaim their place in 2018 and this programme looks at captain MS Dhoni, plus key players such as Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, Ambati Rayudu and Faf du Plessis.
Dhoni is particularly honest about the bad times and the effect that the actions of others had on the team. For a fascinating look behind the scenes at a top sporting team, Roar of the Lion is tough to beat.
6. Death of a Gentleman (2015)
The Gentleman in this story is test match cricket as the documentary asks just how the red ball game fits into the modern era. Cricket journalists Jarrod Kimber and Sam Collins initially set out to follow the progress of Ed Cowan as he looks to make his mark on the Australian national side.
As the tale develops, the journalists change their approach as they look at how the ICC is run. Are associate nations being overlooked and is test cricket being pushed to one side in favour of the limited overs formats? All will be revealed in this fascinating documentary.
7. MS Dhoni – The Untold Story (2016)
In India, MS Dhoni’s God-like status is second only to that of Sachin Tendulkar. It’s therefore no surprise that The Untold Story was a big hit when it was released in 2016. This production is, in fact, a biopic with actor Sushant Singh Rajput playing the part of Dhoni.
The programme begins with actual footage from the 2011 World Cup final, a game in which Dhoni took his side over the line in a tight finish. From there, it goes all the way back to his birth in 1981 and that’s where the actors take over.
It’s a very comprehensive round up of his early life and his entire cricket career up to that memorable World Cup innings in 2011. For lovers of MSD and for cricket fans in general, The Untold Story is another must-watch.
8. Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians (2019)
What’s life really like inside an IPL franchise? Mumbai Indians are the most successful team in the history of this competition and this 2019 programme looks back at Rohit Sharma’s side as they face their 2018 campaign.
Cricket Fever covers the season from start to finish. At the beginning, Mumbai are at the auction and expectation is high. Unfortunately for the team and its owners, they have a rare bad season and fail to get into the playoffs.
It’s all about the highs and lows of a season in the IPL and I’d recommend watching this Netflix release alongside Roar of the Lion which covers the same 2018 campaign.
9. Inside Story: A Season with Rajasthan Royals (2020)
It’s the turn of Rajasthan Royals to go under the spotlight in this 2020 documentary. Inside Story is in three parts and it goes behind the scenes in an attempt to reveal what life is really like at an IPL franchise.
This is a fascinating documentary and it doesn’t just give the viewer access to the players. Every aspect of the running of the Rajasthan team is covered all the way through to boardroom level. For many, however, it will be about their interactions with the stars and there are extensive interviews with Sanju Samson, Steve Smith, Ben Stokes and others as we follow the Royals through their 2019 campaign.
10. The Edge (2019)
Between 2009 and 2013, England had a strong cricket team that was competitive both at home and away. However, things were not always harmonious behind the scenes and the issues surrounding Kevin Pietersen were to the fore at this time.
The Edge takes us behind the scenes of that successful team with access to the dressing room and the key players. It’s funny and insightful and is another documentary that comes highly recommended.
11. Out of the Ashes (2010)
This isn’t as you might expect, another documentary relating to the rivalry between England and Australia. In fact, Out of the Ashes covers the extraordinary story of the Afghanistan cricket team.
More specifically, the programme looks at the team’s qualification for the T20 World Cup in 2010. When you think about the issues within the country, the story of Afghanistan cricket really is a remarkable one and this brilliant documentary covers it perfectly.
12. Sachin: A Billion Dreams (2017)
As the greatest batsman of the modern era, there simply had to be a documentary about Sachin Tendulkar. What are the Billion Dreams? Maybe they relate to the many millions of followers that have loved the player since he became a part of the game.
A Billion Dreams is in two sections: The first covers Sachin’s early life while the second focuses on a time where he dominated batting in the modern era. The whole thing is intriguing viewing as it documents one of cricket’s true superstars.
13. The Ashes: The Greatest Series (2005)
Was the 2005 Ashes the greatest series in the history of the game? Supporters outside of England and Australia may argue against that theory but it was certainly an incredible set of five test matches.
England had not won an Ashes series for 18 years and, after losing the first game, the wait looked set to continue. The Greatest Series follows the games in their entirety and illustrates the story of how England turned things around. Whatever your allegiance may be, this is a fantastic tale of test cricket at its very best.
14. Branded a Rebel (2013)
As an English cricket fan I was fully aware of the rebel tours to South Africa that were undertaken by English players. By comparison, I was largely ignorant of similar tours carried out by West Indians between 1982 and 1984.
Branded a Rebel is a really illuminating tale. Whereas those English players were welcomed back into the game, the West Indians received lifetime bans from cricket in the Caribbean. Some began successful careers elsewhere while others went completely off the rails, both in cricketing terms and for life in general.
It’s a balanced documentary and it’s easy to understand why the bans were put in place, given the background of Apartheid in South Africa. At the same time, the sad consequences relating to each player are fully covered.
15. Beyond All Boundaries (2013)
This 2013 release is a fascinating insight into the mindset of Indian cricket fans. Followers of the game will be familiar with one of its stars: 12 year old Prithvi Shaw, who lost his mother at a young age, hopes to make a career out of cricket and make his father proud.
We all know what happened to Prithvi Shaw but there are two other main characters in Beyond All Boundaries. The other characters in this documentary are Akshaya Surwe and Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary. You’ll certainly recognise the last name when you see him: Chaudhary is madly devoted to Sachin Tendulkar and is a distinctive character at Indian matches.
Can they achieve their goals? You’ll have to watch Beyond All Boundaries to find out.
16. Botham: The Legend of ‘81 (2011)
If you’ve yet to view the footage behind the extraordinary Ashes series of 1981 then I urge you to do so. It’s subsequently been referred to as ‘Botham’s Ashes’ and, while he wasn’t solely responsible for England’s win, Ian Botham’s efforts mark one of sport’s greatest ever comebacks.
In many ways this series was even more incredible than the 2005 Ashes. England were down and out and, having followed on at Headingley before Botham’s astonishing 149, plus seven wickets for Bob Willis won the game.
Botham goes on to perform more heroics at Edgbaston before England complete an unlikely 3-1 series win. Considering he lost the captaincy at the start of the series following poor displays, The Legend of 81 really is one of the most incredible sporting stories of all time.
17. Crossing the Line (2018)
The 2018 test series between South Africa and Australia was one of the most controversial in the history of the game. We all remember how it finally descended into Sandpaper Gate but there was a lot of bad feeling between the two teams in the build up to that point.
Crossing the Line is one of my favourite releases on this list as it doesn’t hold back on this fascinating story. My only complaint is that it could have been made into a series, rather than just a 56 minute one-off.
With commentary from some senior figures in the game, Crossing the Line delves deep to unravel a series that will always be remembered for the wrong reasons.
18. India vs Pakistan: A Bat and Ball War (1999)
I’ve mentioned the rivalry between England and Australia but I’m fully aware that it’s nothing compared to India vs Pakistan. A Bat and Ball War goes way beyond the battles on the cricket field as it underlines the issues between these two countries in everyday life.
The documentary focuses on Pakistan’s historic tour of India in 1999 where the action on the field was unforgettable. There is genuine tension between the sides on the pitch but, away from the field, there is a healthy atmosphere and a real camaraderie between some of the players.
That level of respect increases when the Pakistan team are cheered around the stadium in Chennai as they undertake a lap of honour. I’m aware that those feelings are not always present but this was an eye-opening side to this brilliant documentary which I wasn’t really expecting.
19. ESPNcricinfo’s Legends of Cricket (2001)
As you will have guessed by the title, this series focuses on some of the greatest players ever to have graced the game of cricket. Initially released in 2001, there were 25 cricketers under the spotlight and the list of participants will not come as a surprise to anyone who follows the sport.
The series starts in a logical place with Sir Donald Bradman and moves through other greats including Garry Sobers, Viv Richards, Shane Warne, Jack Hobbs and Sachin Tendulkar.
Also on the list are Dennis Lillee, Ian Botham, Sunil Gavaskar, Richard Hadlee, Malcolm Marshall, Len Hutton, Barry Richards, Steve Waugh and many more.
Legends of Cricket offers a fascinating look at their individual careers and there is some great footage at times
20. BBC’s Not Cricket
Not Cricket is a series of documentaries that focus on different scandals to have hit the game of cricket. Ball tampering and Match Fixing get plenty of attention and, while we don’t always want to focus on the bad things that happen in the game, it’s impossible to ignore them.
The BBC gets plenty of criticism at times but I think they’ve handled these issues comprehensively and sympathetically in this compelling series.