Selection Day Web Review: Seems like a meaty cricketing broth
mid-day sports editor Clayton Murzello on whether Selection Day, Netflix series on Mumbai cricket, mirrors the scene on ground
Contracts are not handed to under-16 cricketers on the basis of a single day's cricket. But in Selection Day, a series on Netflix, adapted from Aravind Adiga's 2016 brilliant novel, they are - to three cricketers from a shortlist of 24. And while that's a heavy dose of fiction, quite a bit of what the viewer sees in this six-episode cricketing story, is emotional, heart-warming and inspiring. And true.
Radha (played by Yash Dholye) and Manju Kumar (Mohammad Samad) are talented batsmen in Madhya Pradesh. On father Mohan's (Rajesh Tailang) orders, Radha hits three consecutive sixes to triumph in a local match and Mohan wins a R100 bet in the bargain. Radha is Mohan's Champion No. 1, Manju - Champion No 2.
Mohan becomes a self-trained coach (claims to know sports science too) and decides to take the boys to Mumbai. They stay in a chawl accommodation organised by his cousin. Their next challenge is to find an academy. After several cases of dejection, Mohan and his sons visit the nursery of Mumbai cricket - Shivaji Park. The boys get a game and impress Tommy sir (Mahesh Manjrekar), who happened to be watching the match with his ill wife.
Tommy rings Nellie Weinberg (played by Ratna Pathak Shah) to tell her that he has found two boys who could fit into a scholarship instituted in the name of her deceased husband, Max.
The conversation with Nellie results in Tommy, then the art master, deciding to coach the institution's cricket team again. He had been banned from coaching by the 'Board' for accepting a bribe on a previous selection day. At first, Mohan refuses the scholarship for his boys before Radha and Manju convince him that it would be good for them.
It's match on as it were for the Kumar brothers at Weinberg Academy. Manju is still not very keen on cricket. He loves his science. He can only tell God that, not his crazy father, who believes he has sired the best two players in the world.
Radha enjoys more success than Manju. His 33-ball hundred feat breaks the record for the fastest hundred in Harris Shield cricket. Javed is another capable player at Weinberg and the rivalry between him and Radha turns into hatred.
Anand Mehta (Akshay Oberoi), a young property developer, wants Nellie to sell him the playing field to make Weinberg the ultimate cricket facility. Mehta also becomes an agent for the Kumar brothers - 33.3 per cent commission of their earnings - but he provides them Rs 50,000 per month, top quality equipment and a flat far more spacious than the chawl room.
Plots and sub-plots in this cricketing broth are exciting, akin to the ebb and flow of a cricket match. The few appearances of Lord Subramanyam didn't exactly add to my anticipation and I thought the scenes involving Mehta could have been restricted. However, he plays a key role in the next set of episodes. Judging from the six episodes, Manjrekar's work stands out, and so does Tailang, the tough dad, who truly believes his sons can be the Mohd Rafi and Kishore Kumar of Indian cricket.
The cricketing shots executed by Radha, Manju and Javed are impeccable and the tent scenes during matches made me nostalgic. Will the brothers go on and realise their father's dreams? Will Javed turn out to be the player he potentially is? And what happens to the mother of the Kumar brothers? When does Manju finally get to see her again? More importantly, can they make the cut on Selection Day? Picture toh abhi baaki hai.
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