Twitter ye not: cricket should heed the danger of loose shots in public

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The Independent Online

Tweet nothings are in danger of obtaining a bit of substance. Cricketers, above all, should know that if you tweet in haste, you are liable to repent at leisure. It's the "social networking" equivalent of the lazy swish outside off stump. Those left staring out of the pavilion window, pondering the wisdom of a cheap shot, now include Kevin Pietersen, who last week offered some unsolicited assistance to the judicial system as his England team-mate, Graeme Swann, responded to drink-driving charges.

Now, it seems, the cricket authorities may be considering formal regulation, perhaps even banning players altogether from networks such as Twitter and Facebook. In celebrities, all this stuff has an additional, commercial dimension of self- promotion. But its abiding impetus remains the same as for everyone else: self-absorption. And it is too much to hope, clearly, that those who condense their mental processes into 140-character spasms can reliably comprehend the bigger picture – whether that relates to their own image, or that of their sport.

Of course, you can't have it both ways. You can't say that all this trivial traffic merely confirms cyberspace as some intergalactic vacuity between the ears, and then complain when it discloses something of genuine interest. It would be overstating matters so to dignify Pietersen – "OMG!!!" – but there have been occasions when sportsmen have broken the fetters not just of literacy but also of discretion.

Last year, for instance, Phillip Hughes told the great unwashed – an audience, as any Australian could have told him, guaranteed to contain the odd rancid Pom – that he had been dropped for the third Test. He was given a stern reprimand for assisting enemy strategy.

Sometimes, moreover, the usual stream of semi-consciousness can suddenly show a character in full spate. The enigma of Ryan Babel was certainly enriched when Rafael Benitez sent him to Coventry when the rest of the team went to Stoke: "Hey people, I've got some disappointing news – I'm not travelling to Stoke. The boss left me out of the squad. No explanation." Later that day he asked: "Where did it go wrong??? ... one day, you will see what I'm capable off [sic], will it be at LFC or somewhere else... I have faith."

The very fact that someone does something like this, apparently indifferent to the consequences, itself has significance. Most notorious of all was the case of Darren Bent, whose rant last summer against the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, helped him get the move he wanted, to Sunderland. "Seriously getting p***** off now... Do I wanna go Hull City NO. Do I wanna go stoke NO do I wanna go sunderland YES so stop f****** around levy [sic]." His move ultimately proved a great success.

The cricket authorities have a possible template from the NBA, which fined the owner of the Dallas Mavericks $25,000 (£16,000) after he criticised referees on Twitter. But we're between a rock and a hard place here. Lance Armstrong once gave a proper insight into his sour relationship with his team-mate, Alberto Contador. "Hey pistolero" – that's how he began. That's an authentic voice. That does count for something. And if you can only fire blanks, there's no point having a target.