While the Wallabies are the representation of sportsmanship par excellence, Australians are very fond of a lesser known sport which looks like baseball but is not. This sport is cricket and it is the main theme in Save Your Legs. The movie is an invitation to discover, or rediscover, Australian cricket topped with national myths and a dash of humour.
Iconic images reflecting the culture of a country will inevitably appear in its movies as a form of national identity. Whether this is done on purpose, or not, is a question that may never find a proper answer. Some recurrent images projected in Australian films are: the vast landscape, white males – very often drinking beers – and sports, to cite a few. The important thing remains that these films deliver a positive sense of national identity to the rest of the world1.
Save Your Legs is a 2012 movie where 11 ambituous and daring Australians go to cricket’s final frontier: India. Directed by Boyd Hicklin, the setting starts in Australia before being transposed into the heart of Indian suburbs. Teddy (Stephen Curry) and Rick (Brendan Cowell) are two young men who have reached the mature age of thirty-five, but still have not acquired the maturity of adults of their age. In a moral upsurge, they decide to take their cricket team to face billions; their last chance to fulfill a childhood dream.Welcome to the Land of Cricket
Cricket is played with a bat and ball by two teams of 11 players and a reserve player called the «twelfth» man. The game is supervised by two umpires on the field and a third in charge of video decisions. There are international competitions of cricket and world tournaments but it is not played at the Olympics. The only time cricket was played at the Olympics was in 1900 where England beat France on her turf. Cricket was not considered an Olympic sport after that year2.
Cricket would find its origin in England, when it was primarily a children’s game before adults took ownership of the game. It is quite blurry to date the game, but records show that national matches took place in the 17th century in Europe3. The British Empire exported the game to its colonies where natives got influenced and started playing the game. When these former colonies gained independence, they adopted the game as part of their popular culture.
The game established itself as one of the most played national games in The West Indies, Australia, India and South Africa. Present day in India, the game has a very powerful impact on locals and on some fanatic supporters who would cause riots when their team loses4. The pride of India is Sachin Tendulkar; the best cricket player of all time and Teddy’s idol ever since he started getting interested in the game.
The Cult of Mateship
The origin of mateship is rooted in the early days when, through hard work, men built Australia with their own hands. Men dominated women in number as well as in occupation; male-dominated activities like agriculture and mining excluded women5. This national myth is still present nowadays and Australian cinema has helped to keep the myth alive through movies like Gallipoli, Wake in Fright. Save Your Legs perpetuates the myth into the 21st century as a celebration of mateship.
In those three movies, mateship is presented somewhat under different facets. There is a sentimental ideal in Gallipoli where two characters of opposing nature – one is idealistic while the other is realistic – bond together6. In Wake In Fright, the image of mateship is not sentimentalised but has a rather gothic appeal. In Save Your Legs, mateship is placed in the context of sports and in isolating circumstances. They are in a foreign country and their competitive instinct creates a strong bond that ties them together to stand strong as a team.
Mateship is a man’s business in a man’s country. Although cricket is a game played by women as well, there is practically no reference to it except, at one point, where Anjali (Pallavi Sharda – the main actress) has to fill in the gap during the last friendly match. Movies putting forth mateship seldom give credit to female characters and this is a typical trait in Australian cinema.
A Competitive Spirit
Sport holds a very different meaning for Australians. One must play to win, unlike Coubertin’s motto, the most important thing is to participate. Sport rivalry is a very strong tradition in Australian culture. Gallipoli, although being a movie reminding people why ANZAC day is celebrated in a first place, is full of people challenging each other while others are betting on the potential result7. The competitive instinct between mates in Gallipoli is perpetuated when Archy and Frank race each other: winning is what counts.
In Save Your Legs, the improbable team goes to a country where even street kids are good at cricket. This does not scare them; they play confidently till the last minute despite being much weaker than their opponents. In the end, victory goes to India; this outcome does not surprise anyone. Still, when the tournament is over, they are celebrating. Celebration is when there is victory but Teddy’s team was celebrating a good time spent amongst mates!
This was their way of showing that Australians know how to be fair but when challenged, once again, by his rival, Teddy holds his head up and accepts the new challenge. Though his team is not really keen to have another match against the Indians, they back him up and show determination. Even if defeat has swept over them, they do not ever give up. They are a team and will accept any challenge because the important thing is to stand strong and not bow down. Mateship is what saves the last match as it would have been unconceivable that an Australian movie shows that their team lost both matches against India.
Interestingly, the cricket competition takes place between two former British colonies. Going to India rather than England, is a means of asserting Australia’s cultural independence from Great Britain. Another national myth can, here, be read in the form of anti-authoritarianism as the happy end shows both team celebrating without any trace of bitterness. Distancing themselves from Great Britain, Australians have taken what they deemed to be good from their colonial legacy and made a hybrid culture out of it all; one belonging to them.
Save Your Legs does not show Australia’s best beaches and modern cities – stereotypical ads used to lure immigrants – but one which concentrates on what makes Australians thrill. Since it is a movie about winning a game, women were obviously discarded from the main plot in order to focus on mateship and the competitive instinct among young men. Save Your Legs is a rather entertaining movie, compared to Wake in Fright and Gallipoli, as it is more enjoyable for viewers to watch a movie with a happy end rather than a tragic one.
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ESPN. “(Photo) Fanatic Indian Supporters Cause a Riot in the Eden Garden Stands.” Cricinfo. Accessed January 19, 2014. http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/image/281417.html.
Hicklin, Boyd. Save Your Legs! Comedy, 2013.
Jamieson, Alastair. “England Faces Century-Old Olympic Cricket Challenge from Former Enemy France.” Telegraph.co.uk, 09:15, sec. olympics. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/news/5157174/England-faces-century-old-Olympic-cricket-challenge-from-former-enemy-France.html.
McFarlane, Brian. Australian Cinema. New York (N.Y.): Columbia university press, 1988.
Ryan, Mark David. “A Silver Bullet for Australian Cinema_ Genre Movies and the Audience Debate.pdf.” Dropbox. Accessed January 19, 2014. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/tebj971a1sq9bus/uVSqZ-qhHV/A%20silver%20bullet%20for%20Australian%20cinema_%20Genre%20movies%20and%20the%20audience%20debate.pdf.
“Save Your Legs! | ON DVD, BLU-RAY & DIGITAL 17 JULY | Official Film Site | Madman Entertainment.” Save Your Legs! – ON DVD, BLU-RAY & DIGITAL 17 JULY. Accessed December 19, 2013. http://www.saveyourlegs.com/.