Originally devised to encompass last summer’s Ashes campaign, the follow-up to Amazon’s 2018-19 documentary about the Australian men’s team is still filming, with the on-screen story to encompass the recent triumphant Test tour of Pakistan.
As the Indian Premier League’s broadcast rights attracted record dollars at auction in India, members of the documentary production team have been in Sri Lanka with the touring party, shooting “wash-up” interviews with players to capture their feelings about the tumultuous 2021-22 season.
More interviews will also be conducted back home in Australia. The project’s key cinematographer, Andre Mauger, was present in the team camp across last summer, then the tour of Pakistan following the resignation of Justin Langer as head coach in early February. He returns to the road for the Test series in Sri Lanka.
At the same time, Cricket Australia and Amazon remain in talks about where exactly to take the series and how it might be distributed - including the possibility of releasing episodes in more than one instalment this time around.
The IPL’s TV and digital rights have been sold in two various packages for $US6.2 billion ($8.8 billion) combined after a groundbreaking broadcast auction in India. On a game by game basis, that makes the rights more valuable than any other global sports property other than the NFL, edging ahead of the Premier League soccer rights.
Rights were largely shared by Disney Star (TV rights) and Viacom 18 (digital rights), with the digital packages overall making up more than half the value of the rights package. Unsuccessful bidders can now expect contact from a myriad of other governing bodies about buying their cricket rights.
Jay Shah, the BCCI’s secretary, has also flagged a two-and-a-half-month window for the IPL, possibly split into two segments, from 2024 onwards.
The Pakistan tour segment of the documentary, meanwhile, is expected to look closely at the fortunes of Usman Khawaja, who won a recall to the Test team late in the Ashes and then carried all before him in winning the player of a series Australia won 1-0 in the land of his birth.
Equally, the emergence of Pat Cummins as Test captain after the dramatic resignation of Tim Paine will also be featured in some detail, after Mauger was embedded with the team during the Gold Coast camp at which the captaincy changeover took place.
Whatever the timeline, Langer will not be the central focus of the documentary, in a project that is geared much more at telling the stories of the players in a team that is far more cohesive than the one first captured in June 2018 by the first series.
In February, Langer declined an offer from CA to have his contract extended by six months until the end of the Twenty20 World Cup on home soil in October and November this year.
The Test documentary series was released in one complete set of eight episodes on Amazon Prime in March 2020, right at the outset of COVID-19. This time, there is the possibility of releasing two instalments of the series at different junctures, perhaps either side of the forthcoming home summer.
Whether the project continues beyond these episodes is another intriguing question. Next year looms as a whopper for the national team, with a Test tour of India followed by the defence of the Ashes in England and then the ODI World Cup also in India.
CA declined to comment.
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