Friday, May 25, 2012

Twitter and Cricket: #KnightGate

"I don't even know what it does", said Geoffrey Boycott on Test Match Special during the evening session of the latest Test with the West Indies. The microblogging social networking website of Twitter has grown in popularity and stature since its formation in 2006 and it has many fans. I, having grown up with websites like Bebo, MySpace and Facebook, am included in this and having had an account on the site for nearly three years, I spend a lot of time on it.

Twitter, like any social networking site on the internet, is a hive of information. What Boycott, and others, don't seem to understand is that it's a site for discussion, entertainment and sharing of knowledge. Some tweeters may well have a tendency to update you with what they had for breakfast, but others will have something genuinely interesting to say. Friendships can form on there. My passion for cricket and sport in general has allowed me to meet people who have similar interests to me and means that, finally, I have someone to watch sport with, something that never happened when I was younger.

Of course, my banal rambling aside, Twitter also provides a platform for the celebrity, politician or sports star to share details of their life. One of those characters is that of Kevin Pietersen, who this week got in trouble because of his comments about the Sky commentator, Nick Knight:
Now, I'm not really a big fan of Nick Knight's commentary style. I have nothing against him as a person and I will give credit where it's due, as he's improved since I saw him presenting my mum's ECB coaching videos, but there's just something about the way he commentates that I don't like. Of course, some people do like it. Others think Ian Botham is a superb commentator, others can't stand Henry Blofeld's love of pigeons and nobody is ever quite sure how they feel about Nasser Hussain. James Anderson has his own opinions on commentators in general and said in a recent feature in the latest edition of The Cricketer that "Cricket commentary must be one of the hardest jobs in the world. It is the only way I can make sense of how so many of them talk such absolute guff".

Pietersen was fined a reported £3000 for the tweet and, of course, it's not the first time Pietersen's been in trouble over his use of Twitter. In 2010, he announced he'd been dropped from the ODI squad having apparently forgotten how to use the direct messaging service. He was fined for his comments back then as well and this, arguably, was a far more worthy reason for him to be fined. Other English cricketers have got into trouble for their use of the site. Tim Bresnan was less than impressed with someone's creative use of Photoshop and the Yorkshire all-rounder Azeem Rafiq was banned after a Twitter rant. There are those, such as Graeme Swann, who use Twitter to entertain (and make fun of Steven Finn or Tim Bresnan). David Lloyd and Michael Vaughan, both former players (and in Bumble's case, coaches) turned commentators enjoy filling your timeline with those who 'abuse' them and their attempts to outwit/humiliate the perpetrator.

The relationship between the sports star and the media has become one of the player presenting a bland front and not really saying much. Cliches galore have slipped into speech, sometimes a sparkle in their eye suggests they want to get something off their chest, but they can't. Even the England Lions receive media training as part of their development. Presumably this'll now include a module on Twitter etiquette. However, Pietersen's not going to stop tweeting, nor will his opinion of Nick Knight change. There are those who will argue that if Knight's allowed to criticise Pietersen, how come Pietersen isn't allowed to criticise Knight? There are others who will say that Pietersen should be respectful and wonder what the reaction would be like if this was a team mate or member of staff. Mind you, we know what happens when he criticises a member of staff, don't we?

It's also not the first time that an England cricketer has singled Nick Knight out for criticism. During England's ODI series in India, in which Stuart Broad was sat at home eating crackers/what was really just a student diet and saying that this was really beneficial to his beanpole body, Broad tweeted this:

Maybe it was because it's Stuart Broad, someone who some don't think suffers from chronic foot-in-mouth syndrome. Maybe it's because it was said during the ODI series in India which everybody seems to have forgotten about. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but had this been said during a home series, would it have caused a similar reaction? With Pietersen causing headlines with seemingly every move/statement he makes, has he just become an easy target?

Twitter is a fantastic platform. In a way, it's like a massive press conference, only with more grammatical errors, overuse of exclamation marks and sometimes horses. With more and more cricketers signing up, opinions, spats, and the odd gaffe (Dale Steyn tweeting an "accidental cobra" in the background of a picture, for instance) are now a part of the game. And this will mean that it will continue to perplex and baffle the likes of Boycott and the technophobe Alastair Cook. But it will also continue to create debates and sometimes allows people to feel closer to the action, something which should be celebrated, and not scorned.

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