By Avinash Kumar Atish
Documentary Series: Bandon Mein Tha Dum (Streaming on Voot Select)
Duration: 45-50 minutes per episode (Total four episodes)
Director: Neeraj Pandey. Cast: Cricketers, Journalists.
Test cricket, no doubt, is the absolute pinnacle of the sport. Though the introduction of T20 has seen the popularity of the game soar to new levels, players universally regard Test cricket as the toughest format to succeed in.
There are series that live long in the memory of the cricket fanatics. And to relive one such moment, Neeraj Pandey, who had previously made 'M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story', has delivered yet another cracker of a production, the docu-series 'Bandon Mein Tha Dum' on the Indian cricket team's memorable Test series against Australia in 2020/21, when they showed real resilience and courage to overcome odds and win the series, despite being short of resources.
The series succeeds in reliving the historic moments with the help of archival footage and recollections of some of the key players and cricket journalists. It takes the audience inside the pavilion via candid interviews with Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mohammad Siraj, Rishabh Pant, and others.
Among the cricketers, Ashwin stood out because of his articulation, spontaneity and sense of humour. In Episode 3, which is all about the Sydney Test and there is a dialogue -- "If it meant dying, I would rather die" -- in which the off-spinner modulates his tone according to the unfolding situation, where he was battling severe back pain.
On the other hand, Cheteshwar Pujara, like his batting, narrates his side of the story without much fuss. There is a sequence in the final episode, which features Pujara taking brutal blows on his body. The shots and angles, depicted in that particular moment in the series, are so real that one can almost feel the ball colliding with his chest.
There are various sequences of Ajinkya Rahane, who was the protagonist-in-chief during that series in the absence of regular skipper Virat Kohli, in which he reveals about his game plans and thought processes behind making certain decisions. But the frame of the run-out involving Rahane and Virat, when both were batting smoothly in Adelaide, comes as a painful flashback.
"The moment it happened, I somehow got the feeling that it would cost us the game," says an emotional Rahane. That run-out moment also appears immediately after Rahane's redemption hundred in Melbourne following the Adelaide debacle. At the end of the final episode, he is shown wiping a tear.
The rest of the Indian players -- Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar and Rishabh Pant -- try to be earnest. Pant makes an honest admission that he was quite sad that India drew the Sydney Test. "A draw is a draw and win is a win," he says philosophically. "A draw is never the same as a win."
There is a teary Siraj when India's national anthem is being played and he remembers his late father. Another scene shows the pacer looking heavenward after picking his first five-for in Test cricket. On the other hand, Hanuma Vihari is shown saying that his mother told him that the "purpose of his life has been served" after the grit and determination he showed in Sydney to save the Test for India.
The docu-series has maintained a fine balance between events and characters and is not too melodramatic. One can argue whether a cricket-based documentary should be more dramatic or not, especially when the sport itself comes laden with so much emotion.
The four-episode series could have been a bit more engaging as sometimes it gives the feeling of repeating what has been said and read multiple times. Neeraj Pandey has had experience of directing a sports biopic, so the audience could justifiably expect a bit more engagement from his side. Actor Jimmy Shergill has done a brilliant job as the narrator for the series.
Overall, "Bandon Mein Tha Dum' is worth a watch for people who are suckers for good sports-based entertainment and want to relive the moments from the Ultimate Test Series Down Under.