Our latest Twitter round-up’s just appeared on Cricinfo. It was an unusually tough assignment. We’d sign into Twitter, get distracted by the latest developments arising from Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography and then find that we’d lost an hour or more. We’d then force ourself to close down Twitter so that we could get some work done before remembering that Twitter was our work. Repeat.
Twitter isn’t fundamentally bad
Despite what many believe. It’s just people, after all. People are good and bad. If your experience of Twitter is always negative, you’re following the wrong people. Follow good people and it’s an always-accessible sounding board for thoughts and ideas; a friendly online pub full of witty, erudite people who like to discuss things and trade one-liners.
However, of late logging in has been to waltz onto a medieval battlefield sans armour. A 24-hour argument is being maintained and even if you don’t get involved, it can be a bruising experience. If you ever feel emotions for other people, you won’t go long without sympathy or anger welling up in you. Absorbed in the debate, you don’t notice it happening either – at least until you go to bed and realise that it will take literally hours before the tension subsides.
Pick a side
The annoying thing for us is that the Pietersen story raises lots of interesting questions about the way the sport is run in England. We’d like to discuss these things, but we can’t. We always consider this website to be quite a friendly place, but even here it’s impossible to criticise the ECB without people assuming you must therefore be on KP’s side. Conversely, criticise KP and you are ascribed all sorts of other opinions as a consequence.
It’s like English cricket has devised two new stereotypes and is getting busy with its label maker, tagging everyone. On Twitter, this polarisation is even more pronounced.
Fight your corner
The word ‘tweet’ sounds so fey and inconsequential, but reading them at the moment is exhausting. Even when we broadly agree with someone, we’re often put off by the vehemence with which they put their point across. People we otherwise enjoy speaking to – often contemporaries; the pseudo-colleagues of the freelancer – seem incredibly militant all of a sudden.
Perhaps the chaos is addictive. Perhaps people enjoy the feeling of being at the centre of something major that is unfolding, surrounded by well-known names, not knowing where things are going.
A lot of KP/ECB-related Twitter output is a kind of directionless rage broadcast to the ether – almost an invitation to combat. At other times, a target is identified – and if there is no target, it doesn’t take much to create one. Disagree forcefully enough with something someone says and they will respond in kind. A quick to and fro and two people who thought they occupied middle ground suddenly find themselves entrenched at opposite extremes. Suddenly you find you have a stance – and then everyone else piles in.
And oh how they pile in
Maybe it’s the number of people who can get involved in a Twitter debate that causes all of this. Crowd behaviour is greatly influenced by a reduction in each individual’s sense of personal responsibility. That’s how mobs form. But a reduced sense of personal responsibility is something that can surely only be exacerbated by the pseudonyms and physical distance that come with Twitter.
You can say what you like and you can get carried along with the crowd. That’s dangerous enough, but compounding this is the fact that the more people who are discussing something, the more quickly the debate moves. This is exciting, your adrenaline fires. Yet if you’re involved, you may feel you have to become more and more extreme in what you say so as to be heard above the noise.
In short, things escalate.
What’s your point?
No point. Modern world, self-control, polarised debate.
And even for conscientious objectors, it’s hard to ignore a medieval battle. It takes willpower to look straight ahead when you pass an accident on the motorway. When this sort of melée is just a click away, what chance have you got – particularly when you can sit on the sidelines, invisible to all the combatants?35 Appeals
We support the England cricket team. We will always support the England cricket team. It’s just that it would be so, so, so much easier to support the England cricket team if it weren’t being run by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The Pakistan Cricket Board is mental, the West Indies Cricket Board is incompetent, but the England and Wales Cricket Board is some kind of Machiavellian old boys’ club. No-one within it really has much of a clue about international sport. They don’t know what makes it good, they don’t know what it takes to be successful and worst of all they think the sport of cricket and the England team that plays it are theirs to do with as they please.
It appears to be an organisation almost tailor-made to antagonise us. It hates individuals, tries to exercise almost complete control over its workers, loathes anyone who disagrees with its methods and has some weird, very specific notion of the kind of person it wants in key positions. We sometimes feel like English cricket is being annexed by this weird group of buffoons and we don’t know where they came from, who gave them power or how they’re still around.
Watching them trip over each other, set fire to things and fling pies in each other’s faces while trying to deal with this Pietersen book, all we can think is that someone should put them out of their misery. We don’t mean stringing them up by their ECB ties. We just mean drawing a line under the floundering and manipulation. Why don’t we just change the code to get into the office and then hire some grown-ups to replace them?33 Appeals
We didn’t get a review copy of KP: The Autobiography. Apparently it was already getting enough attention without a review appearing here in about six months’ time.
We wonder whether we need to read it. The two-page email from Rahul Dravid about how to play spin that features within it sounds interesting, but as far as we can make out, the book’s mostly all about the run-up to his sacking (KP’s, not Dravid’s – who’d sack Dravid from anything?). We felt like we’d pretty much got all of that information after an hour on Twitter yesterday.
Andy Flower’s a mood hoover. Alastair Cook’s a company man. Matt Prior refers to himself in the third person as ‘the Big Cheese’, saying things like “the Big Cheese has earned some beer tonight” (pretty sure that last one’s either a lie or Prior was saying it with great irony, but it is quite funny all the same).
The interesting stuff that might cause us to read the book falls into two categories.
Stuff about cricket
Like the Dravid email or the observation: “We are on the road for 250 days a year, we wear our England kit on most of these days … It never, ever ended.”
We’d like to know more about this sort of stuff, but is there really any room for it in a book that seems to spend most of its time focused on fall-outs of the recent past.
I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan – there’s a book that’s worth a read. But we also love the accidental Partridges pro sportsmen are prone to. Apparently at one point Pietersen says that most England players don’t have many friends internationally “whereas I have friends in literally every single international team,” which is a brilliantly petty piece of one-upmanship.
Sadly, we’d be surprised if his ghost writer, David Walsh, allowed much of this to get through. Having someone filter his thoughts probably means that even if Pietersen doesn’t have the brain mechanism that stops him saying such things, his words generally won’t make it as far as the printed page.
So, in summary: No, we’re probably not going to read Kevin Pietersen’s book. Now that all the best lines have been published on the nation’s sports pages, we’re just not sure there’d be enough in it that’s new to us22 Appeals
Kevin Pietersen sort of didn’t really get on that well with a few people he had to spend a lot of time with
Kevin Pietersen EXCLUSIVES and REVELATIONS are about to rain down on us in the run-up to the launch of his autobiography (apparently most of it’s about him – the egotist). The latest salvo in English cricket’s biggest shitfight of recent times comes in the form of his interview with The Telegraph.
Feel free to have your say in the comments, but we found it all surprisingly low key. We’re promised THE TRUTH now that the confidentiality clause in his severance agreement has expired but it increasingly seems like a situation where fairly small stuff grew to seem like big stuff for a bunch of coaches and cricketers who had to spend morning, noon and night together.
It’s just one guy’s story and while some of it is certainly self-serving, other aspects ring true. We’d actually forgotten about the England team’s fielder abuse of a few years ago, but it definitely happened and it’s interesting to see that it was a big thing for some players. Shouting at those who misfielded or dropped catches always seemed childish and counterproductive but Pietersen portrays it as being one aspect of something broader and deeper-rooted – although he doesn’t really give other examples. Similarly, you don’t need to have seen more than one Andy Flower interview to know that the allegation that he built ‘a regime, not a team’ is probably quite a fair assessment.
But none of this is really shocking. It doesn’t seem like petty squabbling, so much as mundane squabbling. The mystery is how it all came to seem like such a big deal that the ECB and Pietersen ended up pitted against each other. Maybe if the England cricket team weren’t such a 365-day-a-year thing, everyone involved might have retained a bit more perspective.33 Appeals
Anyone know how to stop Cricinfo videos from automatically playing?
In our line of work, we read an awful lot of cricket stories. This sometimes involves opening tens of tabs at a time and we then have to play ‘hunt the video’ when we hear that one or more has started playing automatically. More often than not, a Cricinfo page is the guilty party.
We hate this burgeoning love of video. To be clear, we enjoy the same YouTube rubbish as everyone else and we like video being used correctly where something is added. What we hate – and we mean truly, truly loathe – is the video-instead-of-an-article video where it’s just someone talking to camera.
Videos take too long. You can’t scan them and see what lies ahead. You just have to sit there like a bleeding numbnuts patiently enduring something that may or may not prove to be of interest with no knowledge of what might turn up 12 minutes in. Yeah, you can fast forward, but then you still have to sit and watch for a few seconds to work out what’s going on. We don’t have a few seconds to spare when there’s a whole internet of information accessible to us.
On each of Cricinfo’s videos there is an option to switch autoplay off and then if you click the little sprocket to the right, a ‘save’ option appears. For us at least, this appears to do nothing. As soon as we reload the page – or any other featuring a video – it starts to play.
Any suggestions gratefully accepted.
Also at Cricinfo
And just to underline the fact that we’ve just slagged off one of our employers, our latest piece has just gone up on Page 2. It’s about county cricket monopolising the back pages and smothering other sports.
KP Confidentiel – les secrets de Kevin Pietersen
Kevin Pietersen’s book is out next week. If you know anything about cycling, you’ll be struck that the book has been written by David Walsh, the journalist who hounded Lance Armstrong for so many years.
Walsh is a pretty driven individual himself and some of his interviewees have said they felt that he exploited them to pursue his own agenda. That approach shouldn’t really be relevant in this instance, but it’s worth noting that this is the man KP has in his corner.24 Appeals
Apparently Andrew Strauss has been caught calling Kevin Pietersen ‘the C-word’ during a commentary stint. He thought he was off-air, but they were actually still broadcasting in Australia.
Being as this is Strauss, we’re presuming that the word used was ‘cad’. We’re quite taken aback by this. Our guess would have been that he would consider Pietersen a ‘bounder’ or possibly a ‘rogue’.24 Appeals
‘How about we put together a nice cosy environment where everyone goes along with everything Alastair says?’
Imagine we’re not talking about cricket for a second and put yourself in a position where someone’s just said that to you. How do you feel? Do you think that sounds like a good idea? Some bloke called Alastair? Does he know best?
As ever, there’s the fact that we DON’T KNOW ANYTHING AT ALL, but if you overlook that minor detail and read the words of yesterday’s ECB statement, that first paragraph feels like the subtext.
“We must invest in our captain Alastair Cook and we must support him in creating a culture in which we can be confident he will have the full support of all players, with everyone pulling in the same direction and able to trust each other.”
No. You earn support. You earn support by making good decisions. Did England lose because the captain didn’t have the full support of his team, or did the captain not have the full support of the team because they were losing?
People should be challenged. Leaders, in particular, need to be challenged – if only because they tend to be the kinds of people who think they know best. The kinds of people who see themselves as leaders are, by and large, less open to other opinions than your average sentient human.
We’ll be honest, our opinion is coloured by our own experiences, but we’ve been in enough work situations where someone has demanded loyalty to know that it is almost always a sign that they have lost control – usually because that person doesn’t really know what they’re doing.
The disappointing part is that we’d kind of warmed to Alastair Cook’s captaincy. Back when he was the anointed one, we were far from onside, but the more Shane Warne slagged him off, the more we thought he was doing plenty right. The on-field tactics were often a bit wobbly, but that’s the kind of thing you can pick up over time. The off-field stuff’s harder and Cook appeared to be keeping things together.
That view would now appear to be massively, massively wrong. A week or so ago, we really felt like this winter battering might have been the making of Cook. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but apparently it can also make you weaker and a little bit insecure.28 Appeals
In our experience, the employees most likely to be considered ‘team players’ are the obedient, unquestioning ones. Management may make great show of inviting feedback – and they may honestly believe that they’re open to it – but the truth is that no-one makes a decision thinking it is the wrong one.
Most of us, when our thinking is questioned, are liable to grow defensive. We’re also likely to somewhat take against the person who is challenging us. A manager might think: “Why are you trying to undermine me? Why can’t you be more of a team player, like Alan or Deano?”
This sort of situation is compounded when the questioner reads social situations badly and when the person being criticised is feeling vulnerable anyway. We wonder to what extent this might be what happened with Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook and Andy Flower in Australia.
Motives and execution
The Telegraph is reporting a Pietersen ‘rant’ about Andy Flower during a players’ meeting. You can easily imagine that he might have gone about things the wrong way, but was what he was saying really so radically different to what the rest of the players were feeling?
Cook and Prior called the meeting because they felt they were relying too heavily on Flower. It seems Pietersen was of a similar mind, but felt that this was Flower’s fault. This is a distinction, but his motives for speaking up were the same: the team weren’t playing well and he had identified a lack of self-reliance among the players.
At heart, he still wanted the team to improve, but expressed himself badly with the effect perhaps magnified by his frustration at being marginalised.
Threat to sense of self
Andy Flower is a strong man. Few would question that. Could a man who took a stand against Robert Mugabe ever feel threatened by someone like Kevin Pietersen?
Well, perhaps. Taking a stand against a dictator takes courage, but if anything it is an act which adds to your sense of self. You can take pride in what you’ve done. It is not easier to do than accepting you were wrong about something – but it is a different thing. Accepting you were wrong means acknowledging your own fallibility and who can readily take pride in that? Flower might well not be that kind of person.
It’s the flipside of having conviction. When things are going badly, conviction might manifest itself as greater certainty that you are right and a belief that what is going wrong is that people aren’t doing exactly what you want them to do. All your repressed insecurities and self-doubt might therefore become focused on those who question you the most (and in the clumsiest manner).
A strong, confident, self-assured leader of men
Alastair Cook was perhaps in a similar position. He will certainly have been having doubts about his ability to lead the team – he’s said as much himself. That’s not a strong base from which to withstand questions about the way you’re going about things. It’s easy to say that valid points should be taken on board by those in authority, but insecurity can affect us all – particularly when the defeats are piling up.
We’ve done another Pietersen piece for Cricinfo. You’re probably a bit weary of it all by now, but if you’re not, it’s about the ECB information vacuum and the concept of ‘rebuilding’.29 Appeals
Remember when England dropped Nick Compton? At the time, we thought maybe they were getting a little bit ahead of themselves. People said Joe Root was amazing and there were loads of other amazing batsmen queuing up to play for England and come on, come on, bring us the future; the future’s going to be amazing multiplied by amazing!
A few months later, 33-year-old Mike Carberry made 78 against a Western Australia Chairman’s XI and England were now in a position where they thought: “Oh, okay, er, maybe he could open the batting? And then Joe Root could move back down the order? Yeah? Yeah?”
Sometimes you can overestimate the quality of what you have in reserve. Particularly if you’re cocky and kind of stupid.
But of course we’re in a completely different situation now. Back then, England were planning for a glorious future and ushering in talented youngsters in a bid to experience it sooner. Now England are shit. Now it’s time to rebuild with talented youngsters. You know, like Australia did earlier in the year.
Because surely that should be the template for how to turn a team around? Except for the likes of Chris Rogers, Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris and a few others, Australia started afresh, didn’t they? They gave youth its head.
When times are tough, you have to move on. It’s vital to start rebuilding and the first step in that process is to chuck any half-decent bricks you find into a skip. It’s not sinful waste, you see – it’s long-term planning. You can’t really judge the wisdom of these decisions now because it’s a long-term thing. It’s all going to be fine. Stop questioning the ECB’s wisdom, okay? Just stop.51 Appeals
Granted, we work for them, but we’ve been very impressed with Cricinfo recently – specifically with regards to their near-refusal to report on the latest ‘Kevin Pietersen situation’. They’ve pretty much restricted themselves to one ‘it’s being reported that senior figures are to meet on Tuesday to decide the future of Kevin Pietersen’ article, when they could easily have produced daily non-news on the subject, adding to the general nowtstorm that’s been raging of late.
If you don’t know what’s happening, you’re not alone. Even those of us who have been foolish enough to try and follow this saga don’t know what’s happening because there have been very few specifics.
The Guardian has been most guilty, churning out article after article dotted with ‘it is thought’ and ‘there is a belief/feeling’ with very little in the way of actual detail. It’s been infuriating to read. When the writer appears to know something, but feels they cannot put it across using specifics, it’s immensely frustrating.
We’re not sure whether it’s a sign of a journalist being disconnected from their audience, assuming they’ll pick up on whispers and allusions in the same way as their press box pals, but it makes for bad writing, lacking in value, in our eyes. Perhaps there’s a narrative to the writer, but from the reader’s point of view, hearsay has been repeated until a point at which it is then presented as fact.
A vague overview of the situation
Sorry, it can’t be anything but vague because as far as a non-journalist is concerned, dramatic things are happening for no clear reason.
- ‘Poor behaviour’ from Pietersen has been mentioned
- Being ‘high maintenance’ is another of the charges
- Pietersen is said to be ‘a bad influence’ on younger England players
- Alastair Cook, Ashley Giles and Paul Downton are apparently meeting today to decide whether Pietersen should be ejected from the team
Even if there does turn out to be some major issue that precipitates the end of Pietersen’s England career, it won’t negate criticisms of earlier coverage of the story.
When you were a child, there was probably an occasion when some other kid claimed to know ‘a secret’ and wouldn’t tell you what it was. They hinted and mocked you, but wouldn’t relent. Eventually, a third party whispered in your ear and everything became clear, but that didn’t mean that the first kid hadn’t been acting like a complete dick.29 Appeals