OTT Review | Caught Out is pitch-perfect


18 March 2023

To say that we are a cricket-crazy country would be an understatement. Cricket is not just a game for Indians. It is an emotion, a religion, and a unifying factor for us.

Accordingly, cricketers too attained the status of demi-gods. For their fans, they were infallible. Unfortunately, they too are humans and made of feet of clay.

Exploring this aspect and its aftermath is Supriya Sobti Gupta’s 80 minutes long documentary on Netflix, ‘Caught Out: Crime. Corruption. Cricket’

The best part of any sport is the element of unpredictability. That one twist that comes at a crucial moment and turns the game on its head gives the adrenaline rush to the fans. So in the 90s when legions of cricket fans came to know that the fate of the match they had invested so much time, money, and energy in was decided even before it was played, all hell broke loose.

Suddenly, besides terms like off-spin, their vocabulary expanded to include a new word: match-fixing. Money and other allurements were being offered to players to throw a match, to underperform deliberately. Some fell prey to this lure. And the ones who fell prey, unfortunately, were darlings of the cricket world. ‘Caught Out’ is their story retold.  

The documentary opens with an aerial shot of a well-lit but empty cricket stadium. It’s scary as it symbolizes that the fans have deserted the game. The pitch had become 22 yards of greed and heroes turned into villains.

Slowly, the main narrator of the documentary, Aniruddha Bahal, the journalist who blew the lid off the match-fixing scandal, appears. It is mainly through his narration that we meet the heroes and villains of our thrilling story. He recalls how what initially was innocuous gambling took the draconian form of match-fixing.

It’s riveting to watch how the first sting operation was pulled off and even players like Manoj Prabhakar were roped in for the same. The first major twist in the documentary comes when Prabhakar drops Kapil Dev’s name.  Next is Hansie Cronje’s track which prepares us for the biggest revelation, Md. Azharuddin being accused of match-fixing.

At this point, CBI sleuths enter the story. The entire track of how they built their defense against Azhar, the exhaustive work done by Ravi Sawani, former CBI joint director, and his team to finally make Azhar confess is interesting.

The documentary minces no words while piecing together the entire eye-opening expose of match-fixing. It does a brilliant job of roping in the likes of Bahal, Sharda Ugra, Minty Tejpal, and the then CBI officers who were at the forefront of unraveling this biggest shock in cricketing history.

The makers have used a few snapshots of old interviews, and cricket matches and juxtaposed them with the interviews to give the viewers an immersive experience while watching this well-researched documentary. Nowhere does it go off the mark or become boring. It provides a voice to all the stakeholders in this game.

Today, match-fixing might not be commonplace, and ‘Caught Out’ tells us how the mess was cleaned. The writing and narration leave no strand hanging. The viewers are told about the current status of affairs, what happened to Manoj Prabhakar and Azharuddin, and so on. All the tracks are woven together well and a perspective is provided.

Our heart sinks when the CBI officer towards the end tells us that although betting is illegal in India, unfortunately match-fixing is not a criminal offense.

‘Caught Out’ comes across as a definitive piece of work on one of the murkiest chapters of cricket in our country and it does a decent job of putting all facts and figures without any prejudice in front of us. It tells us how the crime was exposed, what action was taken against the guilty, and what happened thereafter in a plain and simple manner. So, even if you are not a cricket buff, you get the entire gist of the issue. It does hit a six.

Cricket as a sport was much bigger than this one chapter and hence it has survived it. Espousing this thought is the documentary, ‘Caught Out’ currently being played on Netflix.


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