KP v ECB on Twitter – a medieval battle with an invisible audience

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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?


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  1. People tend to be worse on the Internet, when they have free rein to talk to those they may not care about maintaining good relations with, and whom they’re miles away from. And it’s hard enough to communicate using text anyway, without a tone of voice or facial expression to convey that you didn’t mean this to be the start of “a big thing”, without being restricted to 140 characters.

    I try to ignore this sort of potentially acrimonious debate by not being on Twitter, and posting my biased misguided opinions in places like here instead. But I have been drawn to post snarky comments on Cricinfo articles more than once. (hangs head)

  2. Excellent Twitter round-up this time, KC, despite the toll it took on you.

    I think you have identified a fundamental truth about Twitter in your piece above – Twitter is a useful medium for announcements, snippets and quips, it is a very poor medium for debate.

    This website is a very friendly place, btw. People’s opinions and angles on topics might differ, but it is extremely rare for the discussion to get heated or acrimonious on this site. Long may the friendly atmosphere continue.

    1. I dunno about that last point, Ged. I mean, I see a lot of people being told to “shove it up their arse” on this site. I sometimes feel afraid to spake as a result.

    2. I am sure by “shove”, they simply meant “insert gently and non-forcefully”, Balladeer. So things might not be as bad as you imagine.

    3. It’s not just you, Balladeer. None of us can spake.

      But, as you know, at Middlesex we tend to say, “it is time for your colonoscopy, Sir,” rather than “shove it…” or some such vernacular phrase.

    4. And now I’m imagining a Middlesex version of the entire video. “Expel him from the field of play! … He’s give him a booking. You yellow-bellied blackguard! I am unable to verbalise my feelings.”

      Followed, of course, by, “It is time for your colonoscopy! He’s the most skilful player in the county!”

    5. This thread made me laugh through my nose. I’m at work.

      On a side note, I recently sent an apologetic email to my boss after a particularly unproductive day. He replied by saying: “That’s ok. I know those cricket websites don’t read themselves.”

  3. My problem in this situation is that even though I know every side probably has something of a point I find it very hard to be impartial. According to my wife it’s quite endearing that whatever thought tramples through my brain gets expressed in the most forthright way I can.

    The thing is that every time the ECB has asserted one thing, it is either directly contradicted by a statement that they have already made (Pietersen going for a drink with Broad and Bairstow) or by evidence provided by third parties (the bullying claims, the KPGenius Twitter handle). At the moment, the moment the corpse of KP’s career is like the victim in Murder on the Orient Express, where every suspect (including the victim somehow) has blood on his hands.

    It’s easy to get behind Pietersen because what he does is tangible. This is also why not liking him is perfectly justified, ultimately our own experiences of life are purely subjective and I could hardly blame someone for perceiving it KP differently to me.

    The ECB’s problem has been that every time they have made their actions known it has somehow been to create a problem where previously there was none; or else to make an already difficult situation worse. At least from my own subjective view point.

    1. First comment here…just a lurker. But why do you find this insightful, Sam? Is this not another case of an ex-cricketer telling us “outside cricket” people that we can never understand what is really going on? It is also weird that he keeps talking about accountants. They have to do their work without the elastic time requirements of international cricketers. Sorry folks, we cannot report on the accounts of Tesco for another 20 days because of bad light. He is hiding something and blaming accountants for it. Has his wife taken his lego collection to the ncharity shop?:

  4. To reiterate my stance (and it is a stance), the ONLY thing that matters in selection decisions is whether a player makes winning more or less likely. We, the watching public, could assume that through his cricket on the field at least, KP generally made winning more likely. The ECB’s position is that by other means Pietersen, who played during the entirety of England’s most successful period, made winning distinctly less likely, actually overturning the playing advantage he brought by his effect on other players. They have consistently failed to demonstrate this, or in fact to provide even a shred of evidence for it. Why they can’t see this is unfathomable. Extraordinary decisions require extraordinary explanations, and dropping a seasoned test batsman with an average of 50 is by any definition an extraordinary decision.

    The seriousness at the heart of this is NOT about Kevin Pietersen. It is that that the people in charge of the England cricket team quite clearly have as a goal something other than the team winning. Some sense of rightness, of class, of being “the right sort”, of harmony and comfort, of leather armchairs and G&Ts in the afternoon – all the things that none of the people who pay for cricket with their wallets and their souls care about. What this means is that England is fucked for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, we all still have to pay for it, despite it being run for the sake of others.

    1. Bert – your contributions on the last thread are genius.

      I kinda disagree about the ECB owing us an explanation. If they face accountability to the general public, I reckon it should be for such things as (in roughtly decreasing order) the general health of the game in England & Wales, the sporting performance of the England team (or teams really – the different formats but also the different sexes), and to a lower extent since their stewardship responsibilities are shared with others, the survival or growth of cricket worldwide (particularly Test and Associates cricket).

      I don’t think the ECB need succumb to the most gorily dissective scrutiny about details of training and preparation, the coaching setup, interpersonal dynamics or squad selection. Even at the best of times that’s “sausage-maker” stuff – we’d like the product less if we knew quite how it got made. So I don’t feel the ECB “owes” us, as the general cricket-loving public, or me, as a specific individual, much by way of explanation about the inclusion or exclusion of specific players, except that it was an honest attempt to feed me a better sausage. Judging from comments by Carberry, Compton and others in recent years, the ECB should probably pay more attention to giving fringe or potential players a clear picture of where they stand, what they need to do to get selected, and what advice or assistance they can expect. But if that happened behind closed doors and I never heard a word of it, that’d be fine by me.

  5. It’s not just Twitter that’s polarised. The partisanship of some elements of the press (The Telegraph in particular, batting out of its skin for KP as he’s a columnist on the paper – is Paul Hayward the absolute nadir of British sports journalism?) has been pretty unedifying.
    But this idea that his sacking is one big plot because he’s not the right class just does not stack up. Essentially once Flower went the ECB decided they wanted to try Moores again and there was no way he could work with KP again for obvious reasons. So what do you do? Appoint a compromise coach just to pander to the ego of your once great but rapidly fading star? Or bin him, as much of the team which he helped to greatness had gone anyway? It makes sense to be rid of him, it’s not about G and Ts or class or anything like that, it’s about rebuilding a team that may hopefully one day emulate the feats of the team that fell apart in Australia but which had previously been number one in the world.
    A team that beat India this summer and which is showing at least some promise. A team whose stars this summer were those southern posh boy blazer wearing tory knob fit-in-at-all costs never make a political statement b**stards Joe Root and Moeen Ali. Bloody ECB, eh, favouring them over KP.

    1. Excellent breakdown about twitter. I can’t see the point to it unless someone is trying to publicise something. As a forum for debate, it appears to be about as much use as comment sections on cricinfo or Youtube.

  6. Nice one Jimmy…almost persuasive. How well did England beat Sri Lanka this year? How well did the ODIs go against India? And where did Flower go? isn’t he now Moore’s effective boss? And didn’t they sack Pietersen before they appointed Moores? Apart from that, your post is a class act. and Pam’s reaction is stellar.

    1. I was making the point that they are showing “at least some” promise, not that they are anywhere near the finished article. But give them time, and who knows. And would KP’s presence in the one-day team have really made such a difference? His form in the IPL this year was, let’s say, indifferent. And did they not have to remove KP before appointing Moores? They could hardly do it the other way round.
      Anyway three posts in 3 days, I’m exhausted. I’ll sit out again I think for another year. But thanks to Pam and Balladeer for the nice comments.

    2. You’ve done well, Jimmy. The average layman doesn’t realise how exhausting it is being a commenter. I train every day by spending an hour disagreeing with myself in the mirror. If there’s no mirror around I have to use a shop window. This can be quite gratifying when a crowd turns up to watch. I think they appreciate the quality of the arguments I use against myself, although I must admit I do occasionally drift into ad hominem attacks and general abuse.

    1. Several minutes’ worth of laughing out loud there. Fortunately I am not in the office today.

      I can genuinely see Prior yelling “noice Shayne” to spinners as they trundle up. Even he might have a tough job mistaking Moeen for Warne though.

    1. Jimmy Anderson: ‘Kevin Pietersen’s Target Audience Found at Last, Now Move Piers Morgan to Oprah, Also This Is a Book.’

  7. So he thought his last captain was a dud, the one before that a looser, but really liked the one before that. He claimed that “we were good enough that anyone could have coached our team”. He made quite an impression in his first test in England. Spent a bunch of time at Hampshire where he was generally well liked. Was banned for a bit for doing something really stupid. Loves talking up the IPL, is big chums with Piers Morgan. Despite being a bit of a tool ended up one of his countries all time greats, and despite this pretty much no one hates him. Yes, this Shane Warne biography I’ve just finished is quite a good read.

  8. Well, I didn’t think the week would end with televised violence from Flower. Two punches, the first a cracker (and sufficient), the second just cowardly. As better men than me have said, the dirty get. I just wish Camp Bell had been the referee, rather than someone distinctly less bottleless, although I think just having eyes was enough.

    1. In many ways we should just close the site down until next season now. That comment ties everything up beautifully (or at least it does for the five people who know what the bloody hell you’re on about).

      And our commiserations that it was you who had to shove it up your arse today. We can’t spake.

    2. This is about that version of rugby with two missing, right?

      Never really got into it, unsurprisingly given where I’m from. I do remember watching Martin Offiah and Ellery Hanley occasionally on Grandstand as a youngun, though.

      And I’ve seen Up ‘n Under.

    3. At first, I thought this was referring to Andy Flower. I bet he’d like a couple of cracks at KP – who, I have no doubt, he thinks has the biggest ego in the world. Never mind anybody else.

    4. Flower wants to get himself into MMA. That would been a highlight reel KO. In rugby league, it’s hall of shame material.

    5. I would like to add, just to put things into perspective, that Lance Hohaia should also have been sent off (the dirty get), and that as a consequence of this, Wigan were robbed. Also, the FACT that St Helens struggled to beat twelve men directly implies the FACT that they are rubbish and not worthy champions.

      Anyway, the cricket and rugby league seasons are now over. It’s the time for people who really enjoy watching people doing nothing else but kicking a ball. And besides rugby union, there’s football as well.

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