Fire in Babylon: A History Unravelled

Aggression means Aggression and that how I look at my life. If fight, I am gonna fight. We had a mission and the mission that we believed in ourselves. And we believed that we were as good as anyone. Equal, for that matter”, says the cricket legend Viv Richards at the beginning of the documentary film, ‘Fire in Babylon’. Directed by Steven Riley, the film is a powerful narration of the history of the invincible West Indies cricket team of the 1970s and the 1980s. It narrates the thrilling story of triumph and tragedy of a cricket team, who sailed through cricket carrying colonialism’s burden. 

This 83-minute film intertwines with the West Indies’ social history and presents the Caribbean nations’ cricketing journey. Using the archival match footage, a cricket team’s epic history and how they symbolically fought colonialism are powerfully showcased. Cricket legends like Viv Richards, Michel Holding and Gordon Greenidge talk about the on-field experiences of being a West Indies cricketer and their struggles. Different narrative techniques such as press reports, archival footage of the apartheid of Africa, etc. were used in the film. 

The journey of the Windies was indeed epic. From being a team of harmless players in the 1960s, they became the masters of the game by the 1970s. Their way of playing was often addressed as ‘mean’ and ‘arrogant’. A humiliated and bruised team transformed into a dominating force in a sport like a cricket for 15 consecutive years. Fire in Babylon shows why this transformation was inevitable. The story begins with the 1975 Australia-West Indies tests series in Australia. Australia’s fast bowling duo Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson devastated the West Indies team through frequent bouncers and intimidating tactics. Australia had a 5-1 win victory in that test series. This taught West Indies to adopt new cricket strategies, such as having fast bowlers like Lillee and Thomson. 

In 1976, the Windies departed to England with a powerful bowling squad. The infamous ‘grovel’ comment made by the then England captain Toni Grieg and how it geared up the West Indies is narrated in its entirety. 

The Fire in Babylon undoubtedly captures the cricket’s beauty to its fullest, but the film’s canvas does not end there. Focusing particularly in the West Indies’ fast bowling, the documentary shows so many images of batsmen crumpling to the ground. Cricket is not ‘just cricket’, it tells outrightly. 

The link of the documentary short film:

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