Netflix has always been your go-to for watching 40 consecutive episodes of your favorite TV show from the 90s and now it's a great way to learn about cricket and its global impact. Cricket Fever, an eight-part Netflix original documentary series available beginning today, covers the 2018 Mumbai Indians and their attempt to repeat as champions in last year's Indian Premier League.
The IPL is the most popular T20 cricket league in the world, with a fan base that's estimated to be 1.3 billion people. (By comparison, if you counted every baseball fan in the world, your number would be about half-a-billion.)
Cricket Fever's format will be familiar to fans of HBO's Hard Knocks series that features the day-to-day, behind-the-scenes look at an NFL team getting ready for the upcoming season. Here, though, the cameras follow the Indians from the pre-season player draft all the way through the regular season.
(And as a sports fan in America, you'd have to be living in a hole not to be aware of the controversy about the names of teams like the Cleveland Indians. What's cool is that in India the Mumbai Indians is about as PC as a team name can get. It's like the Montreal Canadiens or the Vilnius Lithuanians.)
Things get off to a rough start for the 2017 champs as they lose their first several matches and must regroup and come together as a team if they're to have a chance to repeat as title winners. The start of the 2018 season must have been hard for Mumbai fans, but it worked out well for the filmmakers as adversity always makes for better television. So, in addition to classic sports team intrigue like the aging veteran fighting the rookie phenom for a starting position, you also have the added drama of a talented team dealing with on-field frustrations.
When we're not watching the action on the pitch or being privy to team meetings, we get to meet the individuals that make up the Indians and get a feel for what makes them tick. Cricketers are the rockstars of India, so it's fun to see players going back to their home towns where they're treated like gods.
Each IPL team is also allowed to have a certain number of foreign-born players in their line-up, so we also get a look into the back stories of players like Kieron Pollard from the West Indies and New Zealander Mitchell McClenaghan.
This isn't the first time that original cricket programming has come to a major streaming service in the US. In 2017, Amazon began streaming Inside Edge, a dramatic series focusing ironically on the Mumbai Mavericks, a team playing in the very, very IPL-like Powerplay League. The show is still available and streams for free with an Amazon Prime account.
Cricket Fever is designed to whet viewers' appetites for the upcoming IPL season which starts on March 23. (Mumbai's first match is on March 28.) If you're already a fan of the sport, the series is a well-produced teaser for the 2019 matches. If you're new to cricket, it's a great introduction to the biggest spectacle in the sport.